January 29, 2019

Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget Hearing Testimony

Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget Hearing Testimony
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Good Afternoon. Chairwoman Krueger, Chairwoman Weinstein, and other
distinguished Chairs and members of the Legislature, I am Anthony J. Annucci, Acting
Commissioner for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. It is my
honor to discuss some of the highlights of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget plan.
Specifically, the proposed criminal justice agenda will continue the transformation of
rehabilitation in the state and advance fundamental fairness for all New Yorkers. Since
the Governor took office, the incarcerated population has decreased by nearly 10,000
people – representing a 17% reduction. The fact that New York continues to be the safest
large state in the country, is proof that Governor Cuomo’s smart, firm and fair criminal
justice policies are fundamentally sound and working well.

Over the past two years, the Department has worked with state and local partners
to implement the law raising the age of criminal responsibility, in stages, to eighteen. In
2018, we transitioned two facilities – Hudson and Adirondack – to serve the needs of
adolescent offenders and provide age-appropriate services. This year, the Department
will finish renovations to a third and final facility – the Groveland Annex – to coincide with
the full implementation of Raise the Age in October 2019.

The overall safety of our staff and the security of our facilities and offices remain a
top priority. Last year, we increased our use of K-9s and expanded the use of pepper
spray statewide. This year, working with the unions, we will continue to explore 
technological solutions, training initiatives and policy modifications. We will also extend
our first-in-the-nation body camera pilot beyond the five current facilities and continue the
installation of fixed camera systems.

Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we continue to implement the historic
NYCLU settlement agreement, drastically reforming and reducing our use of special
housing units (SHUs). Last year, we were able to close or convert more than 1,200 SHU
beds, and this year, we will open a 252-bed step-down unit at Southport. These efforts
have significantly reduced the number of individuals serving a SHU sanction in SHU by
40 percent and shortened the average time spent in a SHU cell by 30 percent.
Building upon this success, the Executive Budget includes bold new legislation that
would codify the parameters of the settlement agreement and establish new residential
rehabilitation units, that will allow individuals serving a disciplinary sanction to receive
ample out-of-cell programming, address their underlying misbehavior and reinforce prosocial behavior. When fully implemented, no individual would serve more than 30 days
in SHU. The proposal also requires specialized training, both for staff assigned to the
various units, and for our disciplinary hearing officers. Through these reforms, we will
successfully provide incarcerated individuals with the services and treatment they need,
while continuing to keep staff, the population and visitors safe.

The population served by DOCCS is not immune to the opioid epidemic plaguing
society at large. To counter this epidemic, DOCCS has launched several programs over
recent years, including the widespread training of both staff and the population in Narcan
and the provision of kits to those being released. The Department has also established
medication assisted treatment (MAT) programs at six facilities to provide appropriate 
pharmaceuticals and counseling to individuals with substance use disorders and short
periods of incarceration. This year’s Executive Budget provides the resources to expand
MAT programs to three additional facilities, ensuring a smooth continuity of care with
community-based providers and reducing the likelihood of overdose.

For women in DOCCS custody, we recognize that their pathways into the criminal
justice system are often different than their male counterparts. A significant number of
incarcerated women have been victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or assault.
While the Department continues to provide the latest in trauma-informed care, the
Governor has advanced legislation – the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act – to
meaningfully reduce criminal sentences, in certain circumstances, and allow for some
currently incarcerated survivors to apply for re-sentencing and earlier release, due to prior
victimization.

The Executive Budget will also build upon previous re-entry initiatives to improve
outcomes for formerly incarcerated individuals. The Governor’s four-point plan to ease
unfair burdens, practices and barriers will ensure that all returning individuals have the
tools they need to succeed. Additionally, to address the aging prison population,
compassionate release legislation has been advanced for certain individuals over 55 with
incapacitating medical conditions that are exacerbated by their age.

The Department’s Community Supervision staff leverage evidence-based practices such as swift, certain and fair sanctions and use incentives and rewards to
encourage positive behavior for individual on parole, with the goal of reducing the number
of violations and returns to prison. To that end, the Department will work with the Board
of Parole to implement revised regulations governing the parole revocation process and 
will partner with a community-based organization to further explore alternatives to
incarceration for the parolee population. DOCCS will also continue to support the Board
of Parole in all administrative activities, ensuring the members’ ability to set the terms for
successful reentry and reintegration into society.

In conclusion, this year will bring bold new reforms to improve our criminal justice
and correction system, leading to greater fairness and equality. The Governor’s budget
positions the Department to successfully implement these proposals, bringing a positive
impact to the entire agency. None of this would be possible without our professional,
well-trained and dedicated workforce who perform their daily, and oftentimes, dangerous
duties in an exemplary manner. Every day, this Department reaffirms its mission to
operate safe and secure facilities, while providing incarcerated individuals and parolees
with the programs and services they need to succeed.

Thank you and I will be happy to answer any questions.