In jails, it's an open secret that the grievance process doesn't work. The public rarely gets to see the details. SCOC grievance appeal form | Illustration: Maia Hibbett
The state council that reviews grievances spent an average of eight seconds on each case in its last meeting — and rejected nearly all of them.
By Eliza Fawcett and Chris Gelardi

If you’re in jail, and you’re getting harassed, abused, denied health care, or barred from visitation time, there’s generally just one thing you can do: File a grievance.

For people who have spent time in jail in New York state, it’s an open secret that grievances rarely accomplish anything. But the public almost never gets a look into that broken aspect of the carceral system.

Through public records requests, New York Focus obtained hundreds of pages of jail inspection documents. Paired with state government reports and interviews with formerly incarcerated people, they illustrate a grievance process in which procedural violations abound and cases often meet dead ends, making it exceedingly difficult for incarcerated people to obtain recourse for poor conditions or mistreatment.

The Department of Labor encourages claimants to use an AI chatbot rather than calling. Photo: Dorothea Lange / Library of Congress | Illustration: Maia Hibbett
A Rochester man lost his job while his daughter went through cancer treatment. He’s struggled to communicate with the DOL for months.
By Maxwell Parrott

Frank Antinetto's battle with the New York Department of Labor started with the sudden appearance of a bruise on his 14-year-old daughter’s arm. After her hospital admission on May 22, she was diagnosed with leukemia in Rochester and sent a thousand miles away, to a children’s cancer center in Memphis. Antinetto, a janitor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, texted his boss that he would miss work while his daughter Jazzy went through chemotherapy.

Within a month of Jazzy’s diagnosis, Antinetto was fired, supposedly for failing to let his employer know his whereabouts. He filed for unemployment insurance, which would have paid him $440 per week. After more than six months of pursuit, he hadn't received a cent. In spite of New York’s progressive reputation, Antinetto’s situation is common.

State Senator Julia Salazar speaks at a roundtable regarding immigration detention in Albany on March 2, 2022. NY Senate photo
The legislation cites multiple New York Focus investigations in its attempt to safeguard the rights of incarcerated people.
By Chris Gelardi

State Senator Julia Salazar and Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest announced the introduction of the “Rights Behind Bars” bill on Thursday. Directly citing several New York Focus investigations, the sweeping piece of legislation aims to confront prison and jail policies that limit incarcerated people’s rights and recent instances in which facilities flouted state law.

Readers in Albany: have you registered to meet New York Focus on December 14?

We’ll be at the Albany Public Library next Thursday and we want to hear what you think about local news. We’ll offer pizza and pay you $20 for your time.


Happy holidays! Your favorite statewide nonprofit newsroom is hosting a party at The Armory to celebrate local journalism, our ongoing membership drive, and the end of an incredible year. Hope to see you there!


On December 7, two days after the New York Focus and News10NBC report was published and six months after he first filed for unemployment, the Department of Labor informed Frank Antinetto that it had approved his claim. He stands to receive over $2,500 in retroactive benefits, dating back to a hearing in October, and $360 per week going forward.

He said it was the first time he had ever received a call from a human representative at the department.


Thanks to an industry-wide initiative called NewsMatch and a generous local donor, any contribution you make until the end of the year will be tripled, up to $1,000! Your support will go three times as far!


“I thought, ‘I’m going to die here.’ I’m 69 years old. I’m dying here.”

Mike, formerly incarcerated at the Erie County Correctional Facility

Copyright © New York Focus 2023, All rights reserved.
Staying Focused is compiled and written by Alex Arriaga
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