BINGHAMTON, NY – Local activists are suing Broome County Sheriff Dave Harder to force him to reinstitute visitation at the county jail.
Members of Justice and Unity in the Southern Tier, or JUST, along with Megan Pond, whose partner is currently incarcerated, filed the lawsuit in State Supreme Court.
They claim that Harder is violating the inmates constitutional rights by not allowing them to meet with their family and loved ones.
And they argue that the phone calls and video tablets provided are expensive and unreliable.
Shakeda Paupaw says she can’t afford to speak with her loved one as much as he would like to.
“It’s too expensive. I feel like they want so much money. It’s not even a long period of time you get to speak to your loved one over the phone. And the tablets, they’ve got them but they don’t really work. Sometimes they connect and sometimes they don’t,” she said.
According to the lawsuit, a 15 minute call can cost as much as 10 dollars and a video chat costs $3.50.
Each inmate is allowed one free 5 minute call per week.
JUST claims many other New York counties have brought back some form of visitation as has the entire state prison system.
Harder tells NewsChannel 34 that the prohibition on visitation is to keep the inmates and staff safe from COVID.
He says critics want it both ways, criticizing him for not taking enough steps to address the pandemic and then suing him when he does.