New York Jail Accused of Discrimination by Female Prisoners
n March 2020, the Oneida County Correctional Facility in New York was accused of discrimination against the women who are housed there. Two months prior to that, all the women were moved from pods that offered the same privileges as men to two wings of a unit last used for disciplinary segregation.
The reasons stated for the move by county Sheriff Rob Maciol were a declining female population and a state order requiring the separation of “at-risk” women from the general population.
Guards came into the women’s pod on January 22 and told them to pack their property. Prisoners stated that they were then moved to an older section of the jail that still had the surfaces “covered with toilet paper, feces, and urine.”
It contained a closed-in recreation yard that they were given access to only one hour per day, smaller living spaces with no privacy for the toilets; tainted water; only one shower, and no access to video-chat services on facility tablets.
Upon entering Henry Block unit, the women were split up. Those considered to have medical or mental health issues or guilty of serious offenses were housed in Henry Left and all the others in Henry Right.
Maciol said the move was permanent. The original women’s unit cost much more to operate with three times the number of cells, which were simultaneously powered and heated, and the need for an additional guard (who received overtime pay). He said the move was based on population and not gender. There are currently 230 male prisoners in the jail.
A Freedom of Information Law request filed by the Observer-Dispatch showed that several of the female prisoners filed grievances over the move. They claimed that the loss of certain privileges created a disparity between them and the men prisoners. They said they endured housing far worse than the men and were being denied the ability to video-chat with loved ones.
Maciol said that all grievances had been addressed except the one concerning the video chats.
Staff responsible for responding to grievances answered the loss of privileges with: “Privledges (sic) aren’t a need they are not a necessity. You are receiving the same rights as other inmates in the facility. Due to the different classifications in the pod, all of the females were moved to a different unit to seperate (sic) the different types of classifications.”