ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — On Tuesday, protestors at the Capitol opposed a package policy put in place by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. The directive forces packages sent to incarcerated people be purchased through specific vendors which some are saying is too costly.

DOCCS says they put these restrictions in place to keep contraband out of their facilities, but protestors like Thomas Kearney, don’t think the contraband was a real issue. “Personally I think it’s a punishment on the prison population and advocates out here for work that we’ve been doing. HALT solitary they’re really upset about. They’re being extremely petty right now for absolutely no reason,” said Kearney.

But DOCCS says between January and August of 2021, 577 packages were used to conceal contraband. They continue to support the Vendor Package Program and cite that it is working to crack down contraband attempts. 

The new program also prohibits friends and family from bringing packages in during visits. All purchases must be made and sent through approved vendors like Walmart and Amazon. “The vendors know that you have no other choice so they charge you two or three dollars for one tomato. I just heard one person say that it used to cost them like a hundred and some odd dollars to mail a 130lb package and it just cost them $400. That’s ridiculous, that’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Kearney.

Aside from costs, some say the lack of fresh food is cause for concern, “My husband is incarcerated and he has diabetes and high blood pressure and with the ban on the care packages … it’s like a lifeline like he’s not getting the food that he needs,” said Selena Bronson.

Bronson said she was once able to send her husband one 35lb package a month and some of the vendors don’t have what he needs or they don’t accept food stamps.  

In response to this DOCCS said: Family members have many​​​ different vendors from which to choose. If they are not satisfied with a particular vendor, we would encourage them to find another vendor. The Department does not control the pricing of products sold by these vendors, nor does it collect any commission on sales.