Journal of Law and Policy


Steph Pettit


The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision 2022 prison package ban placed strict limits on the quantity and quality of care packages that people incarcerated in the state’s prisons can receive. The ban is reflective of the myriad ways in which the movements, associations, and activities of incarcerated individuals are tightly controlled by prison rules and administrative directives. Despite the severe impacts that prison policies have on incarcerated people and their loved ones, neither administrative procedure nor the courts provide significant opportunities for incarcerated people to effectively contest prison policy. State administrative directives are immune to public accountability processes before taking effect, and courts are deferential to prison administration policy choices even as they clash with incarcerated people’s constitutional rights. Despite this exclusion from administrative policymaking, a vibrant coalition of presently and formerly incarcerated people, their family, friends, and advocates has been organizing against the New York prison package ban and the ways in which corrections administrations ignore the impact on those most impacted by their decisions. This organizing builds off of a rich history of prison activism, including prison strikes and jailhouse lawyering. This Note proposes that instead of recommending top-down reform of existing mechanisms of administrative policymaking, legal scholars and workers should use a movement law framework to incorporate community organizing into scholarly perspectives on prison policy. Scholars can and should work in collaboration with movements of prison-impacted people as partners and experts in prison reform, as well as towards larger structural goals like prison abolition.