Assembly Passes Legislation to Help Families Gain Immediate Clarity over Inmate Deaths

Assembly Bill A.7500 will help make inmate deaths, a difficult situation for so many families, easier to navigate

Bronx, N.Y. – No longer will families have to question or wait to hear details about the passing of a loved one that is behind bars. The New York State Assembly passed Assembly Bill A.7500 on May 28, which will provide for the notification of the next of kin of the death of an inmate. First introduced by Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner (D – Bronx, 77th AD), the legislation calls for the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to promptly provide information to a prisoner’s family members should they pass while in custody.

Assembly Bill A.7500 calls for DOCCS to be responsive to an inmate’s next of kin or other designated person, who seeks additional information regarding the circumstances surrounding their passing. Currently, family members and loved ones are required to wait for the State Commission of Correction to investigate inmate deaths, a process that can take up to 18 months after an inmate death. This piece of legislation amends the state’s correction law by requiring that DOCCS relay all information relating to the death of the inmate – including all medical procedures used and preliminary and final cause of death.

According to DOCCS, there were a total of 501 inmate deaths during the four year period from 2009-2012. Eighty-one percent of inmate deaths were due to natural causes, which are defined as deaths by injury sustained in a fight or assault, complications from medical conditions, overdose, heart attacks, and more.

“Every inmate is someone’s mother or father, brother or sister, son or daughter. No one should have to wait 18 months before receiving details regarding the death of someone they care about that is in custody,” said Assemblywoman Joyner, member of the Judiciary Committee and chair of the Subcommittee on Diversity in Law. “This bill will help family members gain clarity by speeding up the process by which they obtain information. The death of a loved one is a difficult situation for any family or community, this legislation will make it easier so that they can grieve their loss.”

New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx, 33rd SD) has introduced Senate Bill S.5427 as companion legislation. This bill would take effect 120 days after the act has become law.

For more information, please contact Jamie Gilkey at (518) 455-5671 or Mike Giardina at (718) 538-2000.