Gino Bush on the Tompkins County Jail Expansion, Poverty, Criminality, and Racism in Our Community

WRFI Speaks to Gino Bush about the Tompkins County jail expansion, poverty, criminality, and racism.

Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources (OAR) –

Stop the Jail Expansion Coalition, Tompkins County –

Tompkins County Workerss’ Center –


Local Activists Speak out about the Tompkins County Jail Expansion

Check out this full report on the prison situation in New York state from the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“There has been dramatic growth in the number of people held in local jails in New York State in the last de- cade, with the total capacity of jails in upstate New York and Long Island increasing by 20 percent, to a to- tal of 19,984 beds in 2006. By the close of 2007, over 30 counties in New York State will have built some 6,000 new jail beds, 2,976 of which are currently either under construction or are in the planning stages. This construction has come at tremendous cost to the taxpayers of New York – an estimated $1 billion according to the New York State Association of Counties. In many counties, these projects have been the largest locally financed capital project in the history of the county. It has also occurred at the same time as the population of people held in state prisons has continued to fall.

The growth in the number of people held in jail has not been caused by an increase in crime, as index crime reports decreased by 30 percent in the last decade in upstate and suburban New York overall. It has also not been caused by an increase in the base population, which increased by just 2.6 percent over this same ten year time span.

One major factor in new jail construction has been the State Commission of Corrections, a state agency appointed by the govenor that has been directly responsible for the size and scale of new jail construction in New York State. Although providing no financial assistance to counties building new jails, the SCOC has mandated the size and timeline of their construction and dealt financial penalties to counties who have chosen to pursue alternatives to expansion instead or do not otherwise comply. County legislators across the state have voiced frustration with the Commission, claiming that these are unfunded mandates and that the agency is acting outside the scope of its regulatory authority. They maintain that the agency would better serve the counties by examining why jail populations are increasing and act to address those factors instead. Some of these factors include: arrest policies that cause more people to spend time in jail for low-level offenses, a rising number of people being housed in jail who are mentally ill, system inefficiencies that make it difficult for people to move rapidly through the justice system, local jails being used to hold people detained by the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforce- ment and the U.S. Marshal Service, and a lack of coordination between county and state corrections of- ficials that leaves many people who have been sentenced to prison sitting in local jails.

The impacts of this jail expansion on New York State are significant. Economically, the cost of construction is estimated at $1 billion, causing property taxes to increase and cutting into county expenditures in
other areas. Socially, the burden of new jail construction is disproportionately experienced by low-income communities of color, who form a disproportionate percentage of people being held in local jails. This disproportionate representation is due to racial bias at every stage of the criminal justice system, yet it has long term consequences for individuals’ employment levels and economic success. Finally, new jail construction poses a large environmental risk to upstate and suburban New York, with the United States Environmental Protection Agency having identified correctional facilities as a large, but frequently over- looked, environmental issue.

Given that jail expansion has such a heavy impact on the communities and taxpayers of New York State, all alternatives to expansion should be examined before any new construction takes place. To that end, the report endorses the following recommendations:

  • The State Commission of Corrections should stop the practice of mandating the construction and size of correctional facilities in New York State;
  • In place of mandates regarding new construction, New York State counties should begin “evidence-based planning” regarding needs for local jail capacity, based on a real assessment of why increasing numbers of people are in jail and issuing recommendations accordingly; and
  • New York State should institute contract controls to monitor how contracts are distributed and their impacts on taxpayers.The issue of jail expansion in New York has to date been underexamined, yet the impacts are significant throughout the state. Failing to identify and address these impacts would be a considerable, and extremely costly, mistake. “

Remi Kanazi – November 11, 2013

Listen to our interview with the Palestinian-American Poet and Author Remi Kanazi.

Understanding Universal Single Payer Healthcare with Barbara Harrison and Rebecca Elgie from Single Payer NY

New York Health, A7860

Introduced by Richard Gottfried.

Read the full bill.

Summary of the bill (.pdf).

Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act, H.R. 676

Introduced by Rep. John Conyers.

Read the full bill (.pdf).

Read an summary of HR 676 (.doc).

See the full list of Congressional HR 676 cosponsors here.

Brief Summary of the Legislation

Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act establishes a unique American national universal health insurance program. The bill would create a publicly financed, privately delivered healthcare system that uses the already existing Medicare program by expanding and improving it to all U.S. residents, and all residents living in U.S. territories. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that everyone will have access, guaranteed by law, to the highest quality and most cost effective healthcare services regardless of their employment, income, or healthcare status. With over 45-75 million uninsured in the United States, and another 50 million who are under-insured, the time has come to change our inefficient and costly fragmented non-healthcare system.

Who is Eligible?

Every person living or visiting in the United States and the U.S. Territories would receive a United States National Health Insurance Card and ID number once they enroll at the appropriate location. Social Security numbers may not be used when assigning ID cards.

Healthcare Services Covered

This program will cover all medically necessary services, including primary care, inpatient care, outpatient care, emergency care, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment, long term care, mental health services, dentistry, eye care, chiropractic, and substance abuse treatment. Patients have their choice of physicians, providers, hospitals, clinics, and practices. No co-pays or deductibles are permissible under this act.

Conversion To A Non-Profit Healthcare System

Private health insurers shall be prohibited under this act from selling coverage that duplicates the benefits of the USNHI program. Exceptions to this rule include coverage for cosmetic surgery, and other medically unnecessary treatments. Those who are displaced as the result of the transition to a non- profit healthcare system are the first to be hired and retrained under this act.

Cost Containment Provisions/Reimbursement

The National USNHI program will set reimbursement rates annually for physicians, allow for global budgets (annual lump sums for operating expenses) for healthcare providers; and negotiate prescription drug prices. A “Medicare For All Trust Fund” will be established to ensure a dedicated stream of funding, as well as an annual appropriation to ensure optimal levels of funding for the program.

The conversion to a not-for-profit healthcare system will take place over a 15 year period, through the sale of U.S. treasury bonds.

HR 676 Would Save $400 billion

The U.S. could save enough on administrative costs with a single-payer system to cover the uninsured.

PNHP Co-founders Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein published this definitive study of the administrative costs of the U.S. health system in the August 21, 2003 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. After analyzing the costs of insurers, employers, doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and home-care agencies in both the U.S. and Canada, they found that administration consumes 31.0 percent of U.S. health spending, double the proportion of Canada (16.7 percent). Average overhead among private U.S. insurers was 11.7 percent, compared with 1.3 percent for Canada’s single-payer system and 3.6 percent for Medicare. Streamlined to Canadian levels, enough administrative waste could be saved to provide compressive health insurance to all Americans. You can read the study here.

Proposed Funding For HR 676 Program*

Maintain current federal and state funding for existing healthcare programs; employer payroll tax of 4.5%, an employee payroll tax of 3.3%, in addition to the already existing 1.45% for Medicare; establish a 5% health tax on the top 5% of income earners; 10% tax on top 1% of wage earners, 1/3rd of 1% stock transaction tax, closing corporate tax loop-holes; repeal the Bush tax cut for the highest income earners.

*This proposal is put forward by single-payer advocates as one example of a funding system, though HR 676 doesn’t propose a funding program.