Typically when the Department of Corrections Administrative body decides to remove previously sanctioned privileges from practice, it does so under the justification that the practice poses a "threat to security". Such is the case with contraband entering the facility.
The latest privilege on the chopping block is family banquets and potlatches.
Commissioner Dahlstrom has made it clear that due to the alleged introduction of contraband during family banquets and potlatches, facilities will no longer be permitted to hold these functions.
We saw the writing on the wall last year, when the scheduled Father's Day banquet at Goose Creek Correctional Center was abruptly cancelled a few days before it was to occur, much to the great disappointment of family members (many of whom were children of incarcerated fathers) who traveled across the state and from out of state to attend the function.
As family members, we understand and agree the issue of contraband being introduced into the facilities is a serious matter. We also agree the issue of safety for both staff and residents is of high priority. What we do not agree with is the further limitation of familial interaction through the long standing practice of celebrating family day functions.
These events promote positive interaction between family members and their incarcerated loved ones in an atmosphere less intimidating and restrictive than the normal visitation provides. Parents and their children are able to share a meal, participate in games and other special activities that they cannot enjoy at any other time during the year. The majority of contraband is not being introduced by family members at these functions, and those that are breaking the rules of conduct are relatively small in number in comparison to contraband introduced into the facility by other means.
We ask that Commissioner Dahlstrom reconsider the ban on family functions, or at the very least, consider alternative options that promote positive interaction between family members and their incarcerated loved ones.
We invite Comissioner Dahlstrom and/or her immediate staff to engage in an open discussion about visitation policy and procedure that not only would benefit families and their incarcerated loved ones, but would also improve the safety and well-being of staff members and residents alike.