Broome Correctional Facility expands visitation hours under new sheriff
DICKINSON (WBNG) – Broome County Sheriff Fred Akshar has doubled the visiting time allowed at the Broome County Correctional Facility.
Visiting hours are set at 30 hours per week from 12:30 to 14:30 and 18:30 to 22:30 from Monday to Friday. Visitors do not need to make an appointment. The new measure is effective immediately. Previously, only 15 hours of visitation were allowed under former Broome County Sheriff David Harder.
Visiting hours was one issue on which Akshar and Harder did not see eye to eye, even though both had long law enforcement careers and belonged to the Republican party.
“One of the issues I heard repeatedly from community members before I became Broome County Sheriff was the lack of access for families to visit their loved ones who found themselves in jail,” Sheriff Akshar said in a news release. said.
Under Sheriff Harder, visiting hours were much more limited. Visits were softened as fears about the COVID-19 pandemic increased exponentially in March 2020. The prison eventually stopped visiting entirely and only allowed virtual visits to prevent the deadly virus from entering.
However, in August 2022, a New York State Supreme Court decision forced the prison to allow visitation again as of September 5, 2022. The ruling said a full suspension was no longer necessary because of vaccination rates and the circumstances surrounding the pandemic have changed since 2020. Harder appealed the decision, stressing he still has concerns about the safety of corrections officers and inmates. .
The prison eventually reopened to just 15 hours a week, down from the original 40 hours.
During the court battles, prisoner advocacy groups, namely Justice & Unity of the Southern Tier, held numerous protests and news conferences about the suspended visiting hours, calling it an injustice.
Akshar, then the Republican candidate for Broome County Sheriff, announced he would open visitation within his first 30 days in office. He served in the New York State Senate during that time.
Monday’s announcement is not the final number of hours that will be allowed. Akshar said he plans to expand visitation when more corrections officers are hired. He said the correctional facility is currently facing a staffing shortage.
He said the current expansion is the first step in a comprehensive “responsible reentry” effort to reform the reentry process through expanded programming and services covering education, life skills training, mental health services, substance use disorder treatment and employment.
“The bottom line is that we don’t want to see these inmates back inside the confines of the correctional facility,” Akshar said. “One of the most important components to reducing crime is to break the cycle of release and reoffending.”
Akshar defeated Democrat Katheleen Newcomb, a captain with the sheriff’s office, in the 2022 general election. He was sworn into office on January 1.
He takes over for Harder, who served as Broome County Sheriff for 24 years and spent nearly six decades in law enforcement.
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