westchester mag

A Look at Westchester County’s Prison System – and the People Inside It

By Kate Stone Lombardi

September 16, 2021

Most Westchesterites are oblivious of the prison complexes in the county. For those who are imprisoned, have loved ones locked up, or work or volunteer in one, the prison industry is a harsh reality of life.

Dunasha Payne’s first visit to Westchester was in shackles, when she was transported to Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. At the time of her arrest, she was a 21-year-old college student, an airline ticket agent, and the mother of a toddler. She doesn’t deny the crime that led her to a sentence of seven years in a maximum-security prison. But Payne does want people on the outside to understand something about the people who live hidden in their midst.

“People think that everyone incarcerated is a monster,” she says. “They don’t know that a lot of people locked up are just like me. They had children; they had families. Maybe they did one thing wrong. Maybe they are innocent. Maybe they’re incarcerated for something that happened to them, like domestic violence, or they were being molested or abused, and they acted out."

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