Walczyk: Our Correctional Officers Deserve Better

Walczyk Calls on Albany to Give COs Tools Needed to End Drug Smuggling in State Prisons

Assemblyman Mark Walczyk is renewing calls on the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to put practices into place that will better protect correctional officers (COs) in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties, as well as officers across the state.

Recently, Walczyk led a coalition of state lawmakers requesting Acting Commissioner of DOCCS Anthony Annucci to implement a secured vendor program to allow people to buy items for inmates from selected vendors chosen by the state. This will drastically reduce the number of drugs and weapons smuggled into prisons. Additionally, the group of lawmakers also called for transferring letters to inmates to an electronic platform, like a tablet, and ensuring that COs have proper and adequate personal protection equipment (PPE) when they are sorting mail for inmates that can be laced with drugs.

“Your department data shows that in 2015 more than 3,600 contraband-related items were seized by COs. Fast forward to 2019: over 4,200 items were seized that year alone. Given this upward trend and the need to better protect officers and staff, there’s simply no justification as to why this program shouldn’t be put back into effect,” said Assemblyman Walczyk and 19 other state elected officials in a letter to Acting Commissioner Annucci.

In addition to this letter, Walczyk recently toured the Cape Vincent and Gouverneur Correctional Facilities with prison officials and members of The New York State Correction Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA). During the tours, Walczyk and officials discussed the lack of tools from the state for staff to have a better chance at catching drugs that get shipped to prisoners that have put COs in harm’s way.

“If Albany is really serious about getting contraband and drugs like K-2 out of the hands of inmates, then department officials should exercise a little common sense and put a secured vendor program back into practice,” said Assemblyman Walczyk. “It’s unbelievable how creative some get when they will literally reseal a can of food that has been stuffed with illegal substances or weapons. This is putting COs in danger and it shouldn’t take a tragedy to occur before the secured vendor program is put back into practice. This is just common sense.” 

“NYSCOPBA has been advocating for the re-installment of the Secure Vendor Program since the Governor and DOCCS suspended the program in 2018.Contraband seized by staff are at historic levels and drugs sent through mail and care packages to inmates are being recovered by officers on a daily basis.The Secure Vendor Program would provide an avenue for families to purchase personal care items for incarcerated inmates safely and reduce the amount of current resources that is needed to process mail and packages sent to inmates.I applaud the Assemblyman and his colleagues for their continued support of the safety of our membership”- stated Bryan Hluska, NYSCOPBA Central Region Vice President.

This is the latest effort by Walczyk to fight for COs in Northern New York and across the state. Walczyk will continue to push for the passage of legislation he sponsors (A.4712) that would place a drug sniffing dog in every state prison.Walczyk will also be touring other correctional facilities in the coming weeks.