WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – After more than a dozen inmates at the Westchester County Jail overdosed last month, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has announced that new visitation procedures will soon be implemented to help halt the spread of contraband in the facility.
Last month, over the course of several days, 13 inmates in the jail became “seriously ill” after ingesting synthetic marijuana that was smuggled inside the walls, prompting the radical changes.
As a result, beginning on Monday, Sept. 14, inmates will be limited to a maximum of two visitors during a single visit – down from the current mandate of no more than four visitors. Additionally, physical contact between inmates and visitors will be limited to a brief embrace and kiss at the beginning and end of any visit. Previously, inmates and visitors could have nearly unlimited contact.
“The goal of the reduction (in max visitors) is to limit the ability to spread contraband to prisoners,” Astorino said at a press conference Friday morning in White Plains. “We have zero tolerance for the introduction of narcotics and contraband at the jails. If visitors and inmates are going to abuse that, we’ll respond.”
In addition to the new rules, Corrections Commissioner Kevin Cheverko said that the visitation area is being reconfigured to improve visibility for the guards. All changes are permissible under state regulations and inmates and family members are currently being alerted to the new procedures being put in place.
“Our goal is always to strike a balance between keeping the facility secure and treating visitors and prisoners fairly,” he said. “These new procedures will continue to help us meet that goal.”
Astorino noted that by reducing the amount of visitors inmates can have in a single visit, they will reduce the potential amount of people that guards have to monitor in the visitation room from 185 to 111. He stressed that this was especially important because the amount of arrests has been on a steady rise since 2012.
“We’re looking to keep the ail secure, while keeping the family and loved ones of these inmates in mind,” he said. “The good news is we underwent a complete sweep of the jail (following the overdoses), and we didn’t find much, so security is good. There will always be these attempts (to smuggle contraband), but we want to limit those as best we can.”
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