Analysis & Comment

Opinion | Shine a Light on Prisons

To the Editor:

“The Violence of Prison: A Rare, and Troubling, Look Behind the Walls” (news article, March 31) exposes the urgent need for oversight of prisons throughout this country. Prisons in New York State are no exception.

The Correctional Association of New York conducted a monitoring visit to Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, N.Y., in late March in response to a letter we received describing the beating and strangulation death of John McMillan, 67.

We spoke with several incarcerated people who witnessed correctional officers beating Mr. McMillan inside a cell block before carrying him to the infirmary, where they continued to assault him before performing C.P.R. I spoke with one man who was advised by an officer not to slip on Mr. McMillan’s blood on the floor.

This was not an isolated incident. We have tallied nine other unexplained deaths in custody since November, and every day we receive reports of staff assaults in prisons across the state. Prisons are violent places because they are cut off from public view. Independent oversight and public outrage are the means by which we hold a system accountable for what goes on inside.

Jennifer Scaife
The writer is executive director of the Correctional Association of New York.

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