Leader Kolb, Assembly Minority Unveil Prison Task Force Report

Task Force on Workforce Issues in the Correctional System offers solutions to address safety, administrative and fiscal issues in New York’s prisons
March 24, 2010

Albany, NY – New York State Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua) and Assembly Minority Task Force on Workforce Issues in the Correctional System Co-Chairs Assemblymen Gary D. Finch (R,C,I-Springport) and Joseph M. Giglio (R,I,C-Gowanda), Ranking Minority on the Assembly Committee on Correction, unveiled the Task Force’s final report during a press conference in Albany today.

The lawmakers were joined by their Assembly Minority colleagues, as well as Chris Leo, Legislative Director for the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA) and prison staff.

“Few issues are more important than ensuring the collective safety and security of all New Yorkers through the proper supervision of dangerous, incarcerated criminals,” Kolb said. “Our Task Force on Workforce Issues in the Correctional System was established in June of 2009 to gather feedback from the professionals working in New York’s correctional facilities to learn what policymakers could do to increase worker safety, reduce waste and maximize the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.”

“New York’s ongoing fiscal crisis and $9.05 billion state budget deficit has put our correctional system – and those working in it – under tremendous personal and financial pressure,” Finch said. “While there is an urgent need to maximize efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars in all areas of state government, this cannot occur at the expense of our correctional system and the personnel who are literally on the front lines of public safety. I am proud to join today with correction personnel and my Assembly Minority colleagues to put forth reforms that will ensure that every dollar of New York’s correction budget is utilized effectively.

“The ultimate goal of this Task Force is the creation and implementation of comprehensive legislative initiatives and administrative policies that will keep New York State correctional facilities safe and secure, while ensuring that the Department of Correctional Services utilizes taxpayer dollars and state resources in the best manner possible,” Giglio said.

Kolb chose Co-Chairs Finch and Giglio to lead this important Task Force because of their extensive knowledge about the challenges facing our correctional system. Finch is a former Ranking Minority Member of the Assembly Committee on Correction and Giglio is the current minority ranker, a former Sheriff’s Department employee and Deputy Inspector General for New York State.

“We are pleased to have our long-held claims of a top-heavy administration validated,” said Donn Rowe, President of NYSCOPBA. “This thorough report encompasses ten hearings from across the state where it was illustrated numerous times that DOCS manipulates its data, cuts from the bottom to maintain the top and is creating a system that endangers my members, civilian staff and inmates. We thank the Task Force for taking the time to investigate this very serious matter and hope the public is now more aware of the state’s prison system.”

The Task Force held ten public forums in Albany, Alden, Auburn, Comstock, Fishkill, Gouverneur, Malone, New Windsor and Verona throughout the summer and fall of 2009. The forums focused on exploring ways to improve safety and enhance efficiency within state prisons.

Task Force members heard testimony from rank-and-file officers, medical personnel, educators, counselors, along with members of NYSCOPBA, CSEA and PEF who are charged with the day-to-day operational responsibility of keeping our correctional facilities safe and secure. Numerous invitations were extended to State Department of Correctional Services Commissioner Brian Fischer and other administration officials, who, unfortunately, chose not to testify.

Key findings of the report include the following:

  • The Department of Correctional Services has changed the way it reports “percentage of occupancy data,” maintained unsafe inmate-to-staff ratios, allowed the double-bunking of inmates, failed to maintain the required number of Crisis Intervention Personnel and downgraded certain violent incidents by not reporting them as assaults;
  • Maintaining prison capacities below 100 percent, ensuring proper staffing ratios, eliminating double-bunking and keeping the number of Crisis Intervention Personnel at appropriate levels will reduce serious injuries occurring in state prisons;
  • The New York State Commission of Correction should initiate a study to determine the most accurate way of reporting prison capacity statistics, review the current practice of counting temporary, infirmary and special housing unit beds as permanent beds, and establish appropriate inmate-to-officer staffing ratios that will reduce prison violence and the number of “Unusual Incidents”;
  • Additionally, the study should verify the necessity of administrative positions based in Albany, evaluate which services and programs the Hubs can administer, determine the scope of responsibilities for each administrator and closely examine state-funded housing and other public benefits allegedly given to superintendents and administrators;
  • Administrative personnel at the Department of Correctional Services Control Center provide an overlap of non-essential services. The size of the Department of Correctional Services’ internal administration needs to be right-sized accordingly;
  • The Department of Correctional Services has not used tax money wisely in its prison closures, adaptive reuse plans or the elimination of prison farm operations. Careful consideration needs to be given toward the development and implementation of a reasonable, three-year reuse plan for facilities that have been closed or are slated for closure; and
  • Tailoring a viable reuse plan to an affected local community’s specific needs to make up for the devastating impact of facility closures on local economies and quality of life is of paramount importance. The report also recommends that New York explore moving federal prisoners to state facilities to generate revenue and making effective use of vacant prison farmland.

The Assembly Minority Task Force on Workforce Issues in the Correctional System will submit its report and specific recommendations to Governor David Paterson, the State Legislature, the New York State Department of Correctional Services and the New York State Commission of Correction for their review and input.