Handbook for the Families and Friends of New York State DOCCS Offenders
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Understanding the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
- Locating an Offender
- Sending Mail to an Offender
- Telephone Calls
- Visiting Guidelines
- Visiting Misconduct/Violations
- Rules Specific to the Visiting Room
- Visitor Checklist
- Grave Illness / Death of a Family Member
- Offender Monies/Offender Accounts
- Offender Commissary
- Offender Misconduct
- Offender Complaints/Grievances
- General Information About Programs and Services
- Medical / Dental / Mental Health Services
- Returning to the Community - Community Supervision
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Map of Facilities in New York state 2,708 KB
- Addresses and Phone Numbers of Facilities in New York State
- Allowable Items
- "Coming Home" / A Family’s Guide to Reunification 270 KB
This handbook was revised with the help of many of the divisions within the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. The handbook was translated in its entirety, into the Spanish language to supplement the Department’s English web site component by the Division of Hispanic and Cultural Services.
If you are a family member or friend of a person incarcerated in a state prison, your life has changed in many ways.
This time can be painful and difficult for you. You may have lost the person who supported the family financially or who cared for your children. Relatives and friends may act differently, while others may act as if you are the criminal.
In addition, your relationship with the offender has changed. Your contacts will be subject to the rules of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. The offender loses choices about when he or she can make phone calls or have visits. Family and friends also lose the ’freedom’ to have spontaneous and unsupervised contact with their incarcerated loved one. Changes have to be made in order to maintain the relationship.
This handbook was designed to help you understand more about the New York State correctional system. Hopefully, this will guide you as you cope with these changes in your life.
UNDERSTANDING THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND COMMUNITY SUPERVISION
The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) is headed by the Commissioner. The Commissioner is responsible for the overall management and operation of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to ensure the care, custody, and treatment of individuals sentenced to state prison; as well as those offenders who are under parole supervision.
The Commissioner administers an operating budget of $2.5 billion. The agency employs approximately 30,000 workers and houses approximately 56,000 offenders in 60 correctional facilities. Community Supervision, Field Parole is responsible for the community supervision and reintegration of offenders released from prison by action of the New York State Board of Parole, by conditional release, release to a period of post-release supervision or those sentenced to direct parole supervision. There are currently approximately 36,700 parolees under Community Supervision.
The Department is not responsible for offenders housed in city or county correctional facilities or local police lock-ups. For information about the local facilities, please contact the city or county facility.
Every correctional facility has an administration. These are people who manage the correctional facility. They make decisions and are in touch with Central Office in Albany. There is a Superintendent, and at most facilities; there are Deputy Superintendents for Security, Programs, and Administration. Security staff consists of Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants, and Correction Officers. There is also a myriad of Program and Administrative staff from the civilian ranks including Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator, Supervising Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator, Teachers, Education Supervisors, Recreation Program Leaders, Chaplains, Institution Stewards, Nurses, Principal Account Clerks, Maintenance Supervisors, Plant Utilities Engineers, Food Services Administrators and Stores Clerks, to name a few.
Many of these people are not accessible by phone, but in general, you can reach an Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator, Supervising Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator, or a Chaplain. On weekends, holidays, and evenings, there is always a security staff person in charge of the prison. This person is called the Watch Commander.
Often, the Chaplains and the Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator are the most helpful with family issues. At Central Office in Albany, there are also Chaplains and Family Services staff who can be contacted about family matters.
LOCATING AN OFENDER
A Department Identification Number (DIN) is assigned to each offender admitted to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). It is an internal number used as an identifier for the offender while he/she is in the custody of the Department. This number can be used to locate your loved one, and you need to know this number. If you do not know this number, you may find it by using our online Offender Lookup service. You will need to know the offender's complete name and birth date for a successful search. The website will show you the name of the facility where the offender currently is held. It is recommended that just prior to visiting the offender; you should try to find their location by utilizing this website or by contacting the facility directly. Unscheduled transfers, although infrequent, could result in you traveling a long distance only to find that he/she is no longer at that facility. PLEASE NOTE: Offenders with Youthful Offender status are not listed on the Department’s website.
Offenders, including youthful offenders, can also be located by calling the DOCCS Central Office at (518) 457-5000 during normal business hours. If an offender is in the process of being transferred, his or her location will not be available until he or she arrives at the next destination. That may take a few days. It is the offenders’ responsibility to notify you of their new location.
Telephone calls upon transfer or return to a facility: Within 24 hours of arrival at a new facility an offender will be permitted one collect telephone call to his/her family. If security precautions prevent the offender from placing this call, a staff person designated by the Superintendent, usually from the Guidance and Counseling Unit, shall make the call to a person of the offenders’ choice.
This procedure does not apply to an offender in "transit status", or temporarily held at a transit facility overnight or for a weekend during transfer. It does apply to offenders in holding units in Auburn and Sing Sing.
An offender who is "out to court" or in a hospital for a period of 5 days or more will be allowed to make a collect telephone call within 24 hours of returning to the correctional facility. Collect calls from an outside hospital, other than a secure ward, may be made only with the approval of the Superintendent or designee.
An offender who violated parole, and is returned to prison will be allowed to make one collect telephone call to a person of his/her choice within 24 hours after their arrival.
SENDING MAIL TO AN OFFENDER
Generally, correspondence is allowed and encouraged. The sending and receiving of mail by offenders will be restricted only to the extent necessary to prevent a threat to the safety and security of the facility, or the safety or well being of any person, and to prevent unsolicited and unwanted mail. PLEASE NOTE: No offender may correspond with any person who is on his/her negative correspondence list. No offender may correspond with any person who is listed on a court Order of Protection which prohibits such correspondence.
People sending mail into the correctional facility are personally responsible for the contents of their mail. Offenders and all correspondents are advised that sending obscene, threatening, or fraudulent materials through the mail may be a crime under state and federal laws. The Department will urge prosecution whenever such mail is brought to its attention. Unauthorized items shall either be returned to the sender at the expense of the offender, or otherwise disposed of. Such will be the choice of the offender and accomplished at the offender’s expense. PLEASE NOTE: Dangerous contraband will not be returned.
All mail sent to the offender must be clearly marked with the offender’s name, DIN and return address in the left top corner of the envelope. Envelopes may include your personal letters and photographs. Do NOT send nude photographs or Polaroid photos. Do NOT send postage stamps or letters from other people, except children. A limit of 5 pages of printed or photocopied materials (an individual newspaper clipping will be considered one page) may be received within a piece of regular correspondence. (Note the following exception in the next paragraph). In order to facilitate media review, pages or clippings must not be taped, glued, or pasted together or to other papers.
Not to exceed once every four months, an offender may make a written request to the Superintendent to receive in excess of 5 pages of printed or photocopied legal papers specifically related to his or her current legal matter (e.g., legal brief or trial transcript relating to the offender’s active case) within a piece of regular correspondence. If approved, the piece of correspondence must be received within 30 days thereafter.
All incoming mail will be opened and inspected for cash, checks, money orders, printed or photocopied materials, or contraband. Monies are credited to the offender’s account. Please note that printed or photocopied materials may delay the offender receiving the letter due to Media Review procedures. Again, postage stamps are not allowed.
All mail that you receive from an offender should be well marked with the offender’s DIN and correctional facility address and other clear indications that the letter is from a correctional facility.
This booklet was put together as a broad guideline. Each facility is different. For specific information, contact the facility in question. Generally speaking, offenders may receive a package through the mail or at a visit from anyone who is not on a negative correspondence or negative vendor list. A package which does not have a return address will not be delivered to the offender. For a complete understanding of packages, refer to Directive # 4911, Packages & Articles Sent or Brought to Facilities on the Department’s website, www.doccs.ny.gov.
At most correctional facilities, offenders are allowed two food packages per month, and the combined weight can not exceed 35 pounds (see exceptions for TV facilities). Food packages received from both visitors, and through the mail, shall be included in the two-package limit. Food items must be commercially or hermetically sealed and contain no alcohol. For exceptions, please review the list of allowable items.
Additional packages containing non-food items such as clothing, tobacco, etc. may be received by an offender and shall not be counted against the food package limit. Be advised, there are limits on the amount of personal property an offender may accumulate based on physical and/or programmatic considerations. There are also restrictions on color of clothing.
Exceptions to the above package rules exist for offenders in Special Housing Units (SHU), offenders on "loss of package" sanctions, "reception", or "in-transit" status, Shock, Drug Treatment Centers, CASAT, and Work Release Centers. For example, no packages may be received at any time by an offender in SHU except books, periodicals, and legal materials. For specific information about these special populations, contact the facility in question.
Additionally, an offender who is located in a "TV Facility" may only receive 2 food packages per calendar year from family, friends, or other personal sources, as well as items ordered directly by the offender from approved vendors. These packages may only contain food items and may not exceed 20 pounds. The following are classified as "TV Facilities":
The following facilities are classified as "TV Facilities":
- Five Points
- Southport Cadre
- Great Meadow
- Upstate Cadre
The Department’s "Call-Home" program allows offenders to make phone calls as a way to maintain contact with family and friends. The offender may only call you collect. This means you will have to pay for the call.
An offender is only permitted to call persons on their approved telephone list and may only have up to 15 telephone numbers on their approved list at any time. Phone numbers may only be added or deleted at the request of the offender. This is generally done on a quarterly basis when the offender meets with his or her assigned Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator. If, however, you do not wish to receive telephone calls from an offender, you need to notify the facility, in writing, and your name will be entered on the offender’s Negative Correspondence and Telephone List. The offender will be immediately notified in writing that you have been removed from his/her "Telephone List" and that disciplinary action may be taken if the telephone is used in any manner to contact you. In addition, your telephone number will be removed from the telephone system.
According to the type of facility, offenders are generally permitted to make phone calls every day, including holidays, between the hours of 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM. A schedule for phone calls will be established. Calls will automatically be terminated when the facility specific time limit has been reached, preceded by a warning. No call shall exceed 30 minutes. When other offenders are waiting to place calls, a 10 minute limit may be imposed.
PROHIBITED CALLS: The following rules are some of the restrictions you should be aware of regarding calls made by offenders:
Offenders are prohibited from placing telephone calls to the following (unless the individual called is a member of the offender’s immediate family, e.g. spouse, child, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt, or uncle):
A. Present or former employees of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and their families;
B. Present or former employees of the Division of Parole and their families;
C. Present or former employees of Federal, State, and local criminal justice agencies, including, but not limited to, police agencies, district attorneys, Federal and local correctional agencies, Probation departments and the families of such employees;
D. Jurors involved in the conviction of the offender, and their families;
E. Judges involved in the conviction or indictment of the offender, and their families; and
F. Crime partners who are not incarcerated.
No offender may place a telephone call to the residence of a victim of the crime(s) for which he / she has been convicted, or is presently under indictment, regardless of whether immediate family members maintain the same residence, unless prior written authorization has been received from the Superintendent.
No offender may call the phone number of any person listed on a court Order of Protection which prohibits telephone communication; unless the order specifically states that the offender is not prohibited from communication by phone with another person at that same phone number.
Offenders are prohibited from making telephone calls for the purpose of harassing or intimidating any person. Staff and offenders are advised that such telephone calls may violate Federal and/or State laws. Facility Superintendents shall report serious and/or continuing telephone calls of this nature to the proper law enforcement authorities.
Offender telephone calls and telephone conversations are restricted to the telephone number dialed or otherwise placed by or for the offender. Telephone call forwarding, third party phone calls, and calls to 1-800 numbers are prohibited. Offenders are also prohibited from placing calls to wireless communication devices (i.e., cellular or PCS phone, pagers, etc.). Offenders will be subject to disciplinary action should they violate these rules.
PLEASE NOTE: All offender telephone conversations are subject to electronic monitoring and/or recording by Department personnel.
Visitation by family and friends is encouraged and can be a positive influence during an offender’s time in prison, as well as after the offender’s release. Research has shown that an offender who receives regular visitation adjusts much better once he or she is released from prison when the privilege is used to maintain a positive relationship.
- In addition to enhancing the safety of our correctional facilities, DOCCS wants to ensure that visiting is family friendly and the visiting experience for offenders and their loved ones is positive.
- Appropriate discipline of the few offenders and visitors who violate the visiting rules will enhance the benefits to the many that use their visiting privileges in a positive way.
Directions and Mileage
Correctional facilities are sometimes hard to find and may take longer to reach than you originally anticipated. Please refer to the addresses of state correctional facilities. The DOCCS website gives directions to correctional facilities from Albany, New York. Directions may also be obtained through Map Quest on the internet or by calling the correctional facility.
Who can visit
With little exception, anyone can visit an offender, as long as it is during visiting hours, the visitor has proper identification, and the offender agrees to the visit. Visitors are required to sign a statement indicating that they have been advised of and agree to abide by the rules and regulations regarding visiting.
Make sure you know how many visitors may visit at one time. Each facility is different. Sometimes special arrangements for extra visitors can be made through the Superintendent’s Office, with several weeks or a month’s notice. You can call the facility to find out about special arrangements.
Special Permission Visitors
The following individuals can only visit with special permission:
- A person who is currently under Parole or Probation supervision.
- A Department employee.
- A current, active volunteer for the Department.
- A current contract employee.
- A person with pending or past criminal proceedings may be denied pending approval by the Superintendent.
If any of these conditions applies to you, permission should be sought by writing to the Superintendent well in advance. You must do this and receive approval before you may visit. The Superintendent may deny visiting privileges to visitors with criminal histories if they feel that the visitor’s presence could create a threat to the security and good order of the facility. Criteria to be considered shall include, but not be limited to, the purpose of the proposed visit, the former institutional adjustment of the ex-offender, the nature of the pending criminal proceeding, and the time frame between release and the proposed visit. NOTE: In addition to the Superintendent’s approval, Probationers and Parolees also need written approval from their Probation or Parole Officer.
Visiting Days and Times
BEFORE YOU VISIT, MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE VISITING SCHEDULE.
BE THERE ON THE CORRECT DAY !!!
Except in cases of emergency and instances of termination, suspension, or revocation of the visitor’s privileges, the number, length and frequency of visits by each visitor will be limited only as necessary to accommodate all visitors who arrive during the scheduled visiting time.
Visiting days and times are different for each facility. They are influenced by the security level and population concerns of the facility. At many facilities, you may only visit on certain days of the week, for example, by last name (A-L) (M-Z) or by the offender’s DIN. As a general rule, maximum security facilities have visiting on a daily basis. Medium and minimum security facilities have visiting on weekends and holidays. Work Release facilities have visiting for offenders in restriction units only. Shock Incarceration offenders have visiting every other weekend.
PLEASE NOTE: Offenders designated as SHU status (Special Housing Unit) are limited to one visit per week, excluding legal visits that have been approved. Contact the facility for the specific visiting schedule.
Visiting hours vary by facility. Some may even include evening hours. Many visiting rooms become very crowded and often visitors are told they must leave because there are others waiting to get in. It is good to learn, in advance, as much as possible about the facility you are going to visit. Contact the facility prior to your initial visit to determine the visiting policy.
Visitor Processing Areas and Visiting Rooms
Processing is slightly different at every correctional facility. Some facilities have a Visitor Hospitality Center where you can wait, change clothes, get a cup of coffee, and relax until you are called for your visit.
Visiting rooms vary. Some visiting rooms are like high school cafeterias with chairs, tables, and vending machines. Other visiting rooms have a counter that winds around the room where offenders sit on one side and visitors on the other side. The offender will sit facing the Correction Officer’s desk. Often there are vending machines in the room or in a nearby room. There are restrooms in the area as well. It is always a good idea to bring change for the vending machines. Generally, once you are in the visiting room, you cannot leave without terminating your visit.
Depending on the correctional facility, activities for children vary. Most facilities have a specialized area where children can watch videos and play games. Normally, you can not take toys or stuffed animals into the visiting room.
AN OFFENDER HAS A RIGHT TO REFUSE A VISIT. SHOULD THIS OCCUR, YOU WILL BE NOTIFIED BY THE OFFICER IN CHARGE OF THE VISITING ROOM.
The Superintendent may deny, limit, suspend, or revoke the visitation privileges of any offender or visitor if the Superintendent has reasonable cause to believe that such action is necessary to maintain the safety, security, and good order of the facility.
Visitors are required to furnish proof of identification, which includes the following: All adult visitors will be required to present photo identification when being processed to visit an offender in DOCCS. Acceptable forms of photo identification must be valid, and current (not expired) and may include:
- A driver’s license with photo;
- A Department of Motor Vehicles non-driver photo identification;
- Government issued photo identification;
- Armed Services I.D. with photo;
- Employment identification with a photo.
To ensure faster processing, it is recommended that you use the same identification at every visit, regardless of who you are visiting and where. Your photograph will also be taken for the visitor identification system. For minor children only, birth or baptismal certificates may be used for identification purposes. Lawyers and other persons entering for official visits can use:
- Government issued employee photo identification.
- A court issued employee picture identification or a Unified Court System attorney secure pass identification card.
Visitors Under 18 Years of Age:
- All minors must be escorted by an adult who is approved to visit or an adult in an official capacity with proper identification and the approval of the Superintendent or his/her designee. The adult escort will be responsible for the behavior and conduct of the minor while on facility property, as well as identification of the minor.
- Children of offenders will be allowed to visit without written permission. The offender’s name should appear on the child’s birth certificate as verification of relationship. No visit will be permitted if a court order prohibiting such visit is on file with the facility.
- Children of offenders who are 16 years of age and older will be admitted without adult escort.
- Unmarried minors under 18 years of age must have written permission from their parent or guardian to visit an offender, if they are not accompanied by their parent or guardian. Written permission may be mailed to the facility in advance or presented by the accompanying adult at the time of the visit.
- Married persons under 18 years of age who are related to an offender do not need the permission of a parent, guardian, or an adult escort in order to visit an offender. However, proof of age and marriage will be required.
If you arrive with a small child, you will be allowed to take a diaper bag, three (3) diapers, and plastic baby bottles into the visiting room. (Milk is not always available at the facility. It is a good idea to bring your own). All articles must be searched beforehand. A suitable area within the perimeter of the visiting room is provided for the changing of diapers.
The introduction of contraband to the facility is ABSOLUTELY PROHIBITED. Contraband is defined as:
- Anything in possession that would constitute an offense under the law applicable to the public.
- Anything which could be used to cause death or serious physical injury, including, but not limited to, a hand gun, shoulder gun, cartridge, knife, explosive, or dangerous drug (including marijuana).
- Anything that is introduced into a correctional facility with the intent to transfer to an Offender without the permission of the Superintendent or designee.
- Anything that is not specifically authorized to be possessed by an Offender in a state correctional facility according to the rules of the Department or local rules of the facility. (cell phones, alcohol and money are among the items offenders are not permitted to possess).
If you are caught with weapons, drugs, passing drugs, or if there is reasonable suspicion that you are involved with drugs, your visits can be suspended forever, and criminal charges can be filed against you. If this happens, your loved one may have outside criminal charges pressed against them which could lead to a new sentence and more prison time. In a correctional facility, promoting prison contraband is a felony offense. Such a situation could result in your being arrested in a town far from home, your children (if they are with you) being taken by Child Protective Services, prison time, and other serious disruptions to your life.
Normal Search Procedures: Except at correctional camps, every person entering a facility shall pass through a metal detector and all items (handbags, briefcases, etc.) shall be searched. A hand frisker may be used if there is difficulty clearing a visitor using the walk-through metal detector.
Substance Detection/Ion Scan
Visitors may be subject to ion scanning or other non-intrusive test for detection of drugs and explosives. A substance detection/ion scanner test is a search using a handheld collection unit to take surface samples from the person’s hands, clothing, personal items, purses/handbags, packages or any other articles. A positive test result may occur when a person has come into contact with drugs or explosives (knowingly or unknowingly), whether the person has used that substance or not. If the test is positive, a second test of the same area is done. A confirmed positive test or test refusal will result in the denial of entry into any correctional facility for 2 consecutive days.
You will have to pass through a metal detector. Clothing containing metal (e.g. decorative buckles, buttons or studs) or wire, including, but not limited to underwire bras, may cause the metal detector to alert and require further processing. If you wear clothing containing metal, you may have to go through a limited visual search, personal item search, or strip search before entry into the facility will be permitted. If you choose not to go through the additional search, your visit will be denied. Your decision to decline to be searched will not affect future visits. Special processing arrangements can be made for visitors who are the recipient of a pacemaker or defibrillator and wish not to pass through the walk through metal detector.
Limited Visual/Personal Item>
If a metal detector alerts and the visitor cannot reveal or remove the detected object due to its personal nature, staff may pursue several search options. If you do not want to be searched, you will be allowed to leave. Deciding to leave instead of being searched will not hurt your ability to visit in the future.
Limited Visual Search
A limited visual search is a search done in a private area where an officer or staff member of the same sex will visually inspect the area in question. The visitor will lift any clothing or under garments necessary, to show the staff that no contraband is hidden on the visitor’s person in the area in question. If a staff member of the same sex is not available, a personal item search is used instead.
Personal Item Search
A search of personal items may be conducted as an alternative to a limited visual search or when a staff member of the same sex is not available. The visitor is allowed to enter a private area or room to remove items of a personal nature including braces, underwire bras, etc., and given a paper bag in which to place the personal items. The visitor is also allowed to wear a large white shirt as an outer covering during reprocessing procedures. The visitor will be reprocessed via a hand scanner or walk-through metal detector. The bag and its contents shall be discreetly inspected for contraband.
If a visitor to a correctional facility has complied with all of the search processes and a supervisor determines that further processing is warranted, the superintendent or the officer of the day may authorize a consensual strip search after reviewing the matter.
- The superintendent must have reasonable cause to believe that contraband is concealed upon the person, based upon specific and explainable facts and inferences reasonably drawn from those facts.
- The visitor has the option to submit to the requested search procedure or to refuse.
- If a visitor refuses to submit to a strip search the visit will be denied.
- Refusing to submit to a strip search is not proof of guilt and future visits cannot be denied because you refused a strip search.
A visitor is not routinely required to remove religious headwear during search procedures. However, if staff determines, following the use of the hand scanner, that removal of the headwear or any other item of religious apparel is necessary, the item shall be removed in a private area in the presence of a security or civilian staff member of the same sex. If there is no staff member of the same sex on duty, and the visitor still refuses or cannot remove the item due to its religious significance in the visitor processing area, the visit will be denied
If you submit to a strip search, a security supervisor must obtain your written consent on Form #2061 - Notice of Consent to Search. In the case of a minor child, the consent must be given by a parent, guardian, or a person in an official capacity regarding the minor.
Strip searches shall be conducted in locations heated to a level of human comfort for disrobed persons.
Strip searches shall be conducted by an officer of the same sex as you. In unusual circumstances, you may be told that your child has to be strip-searched. In this case, the parent, guardian, or person in an official capacity who has escorted the minor to the facility shall be requested to be present, and, at the discretion of the officer, may participate in the strip search. If at any time during the procedure the minor objects to the strip search, the procedure shall be terminated immediately.
It may take time for the person to come to where you are to do the search. If you pass the search, you will be allowed to visit. If you do not pass the search, your visit will be denied, future visits can be denied, and the State Police may be called to arrest you if illegal contraband is found. There may be other negative consequences.
Cellular phones, pagers, personal digital assistants, cameras, recording devices, two way radios, laptop computers, or other similar electronic devices are prohibited from entering correctional facilities.
Due to the fact that smoking is not allowed inside our correctional facilities, tobacco products (including matches) for personal use are not allowed inside a facility.
Prescribed Routine Medications
All medications must be declared and given to the processing officer. They shall be identified and stored in a secure area. If the visitor needs the medication during the visiting period, it may be obtained as directed by security staff.
Visitors should wear clothing that enhances a family atmosphere. Please wear: complete attire with appropriate undergarments; comfortable footwear (bare feet are not allowed) and weather appropriate attire when necessary. Inappropriate clothing will result in you being denied entry into the facility. Make sure you understand the dress code for visitors. It helps to have a change of clothes with you if you are not sure.
- See-through (sheer) clothing, bare midriffs or backs.
- Plunging necklines, short shorts or athletic shorts, low tops or backless tops or dresses.
- Shorts or skirts shorter than mid-thigh length are not allowed.
- Bathing suits.
- Attire displaying obscene/offensive, derogatory language or drawings; or promoting illegal activity.
If in doubt, you should not wear a questionable item of clothing. Under no circumstances will a visitor be allowed into the facility dressed inappropriately.
- Please be advised, if your bra makes the metal detector go off, you will have to take it off and/or be searched by an officer. (See policy regarding searches).
- If you wear many hair pins and the metal detector goes off because of them, you will be told that you have to take them out of your hair in order to visit. It is easier to do your hair another way.
- Be aware that some head wraps may have to come off in order for you to pass through the metal detector successfully.
- Many kinds of jewelry make the detector go off. It is easier to remove anything questionable and carry it with you in the processing area. Put it back on later.
- Zippers, metal studs, and decorations can make the detector go off. If this happens, you may be asked to go into the bathroom, take off the clothing, put on an alternative article of clothing provided by the Department and kept there for those purposes, and go through the detector again until you make it through successfully. It is best to wear simple clothing so that you can become accustomed to the procedures at the correctional facility.
Visitors who appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs will not be admitted inside a correctional facility.
Funds for deposit to an offender’s account may be left before a visit, or they may be sent through the mail by check or money order. Money left at the visiting desk is limited to $50.00 per offender per day. Checks or money orders must be made payable to the name under which the offender is committed. It is also recommended that the offender’s department identification number (DIN) be included on the check / money order. It is best to keep your receipts for your records.
Cross visiting is the participation of two offenders in a visit with one or more visitors. Cross visiting is permitted with the approval of the Superintendent, and, in the cases of immediate family members, is to be encouraged. Offenders wishing to cross visit must submit requests to their respective Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator at least one month prior to the proposed visit.
- Only persons who are on both offender’s visiting records may participate in cross visits.
- Cross visiting may be limited when necessary in order to accommodate all visitors.
- When a cross visit is taking place the two offenders may participate in a common photograph.
Objectionable behavior may result in termination of a visit. Such behavior may include, but is not limited to: loud, abusive, or boisterous actions, disruptive or argumentative behavior, unacceptable physical contact or conduct. While visiting, use good judgment and discretion in dress and behavior so as not to offend others in the visiting room. You may be tempted to try to have more physical contact than what is allowed. This is upsetting to other visitors who have children with them, and can cause your relative or friend to be issued a misbehavior report, as well as your visiting privileges suspended.
Families with Special Needs
- Accommodations: Procedures for acquiring reasonable accommodations are available at each general confinement facility.
- Wheelchairs: For those visitors who require the use of a wheelchair, facilities have made provisions which allow reasonable accessibility.
Special Events Visits
Each general confinement facility schedules "Special Events Programs" designed to celebrate cultural, religious, and ethnic affiliations. They also recognize individual and group achievements, and strengthen community and family ties. Under most circumstances, an offender’s guest will only be allowed to participate if he or she has visited the offender at least twice in a New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision facility during the current incarceration. An exception may be made for an offender’s legal child, less than 18 years of age, who has not previously visited, provided that the child is accompanied by an adult visitor who has met the previous visiting requirement.
- Legal Visits: For offenders and their legal representatives.
- Outside Hospital Visits: For offenders in outside community hospitals.
- Facility Hospital Visits: For offenders
Visitor sanctions apply at all DOCCS correctional facilities and for all incarcerated offenders visited. If a visit is terminated, visiting privileges may be suspended for up to one week until the superintendent makes a decision reinstating, limiting, suspending, or indefinitely suspending the visitor’s visiting privileges.
Many categories of serious visitor misconduct now include as the maximum penalty imposition of an "Indefinite Suspension" of visiting privileges. An indefinite suspension of visiting privileges has no predetermined end date, but instead the visitor may request that the superintendent of the facility housing the offender to be visited review the matter on an annual basis for possible restoration of visiting privileges.
An offender found guilty of misconduct before, during or after the visitation process, may have his or her visiting privileges suspended. Certain types of misconduct, such as smuggling contraband, or sexual misconduct when other visitors are in the area, can result in a loss of visits with all visitors.
An offender found guilty of drug related charges under any circumstances, can lose visiting privileges with all visitors for 6 months for a first offense or 1 year for a second or subsequent offense.
RULES SPECIFIC TO THE VISITING ROOM
- Posted Rules: All offenders and visitors shall follow posted rules and directions of the visiting room officers. Allowable items may vary according to facility policy. No large bags or packages will be allowed in the visiting room. Lockers are available in the front gate area for such items.
- Exchange: Visitors will not give anything to offenders, nor will offenders give anything to visitors, unless it is examined and approved by the officer
- Kissing: A visitor and offender may embrace and kiss at the beginning and end of any contact visit. Brief kisses and embraces are also permitted during the course of the contact visit. However, prolonged kissing and what is commonly considered "necking" or "petting" is not permitted.
- Hand Holding: A visitor and an offender may hold hands as long as the hands are in plain view of others.
- Seating: The officer in charge of the visiting room will make the seating arrangements. Seating arrangements will not be changed by the offenders or visitors.
- Food: Only food and beverages purchased in the vending machines will be allowed in the visiting room, and only visitors are allowed to use the machines.
- Pictures: Pictures of you and your loved one may be made available according to facility policy.
- Visitor’s Complaint: Visitors who wish to express a complaint against a staff member should request to see a security supervisor. Visitors who wish to lodge a complaint of unlawful discriminatory treatment shall send a written description outlining the particulars of the incident, including date, time, place, name(s) of person(s) involved, if known, and/or other documentation in support of the claim to:
Director, Office of Diversity Management
New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision
The Harriman State Campus - Building #2
1220 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12226-2050
- Confirm that the offender has not been transferred and has visitation privileges.
- Bring valid photo Identification (ID).
- If you have made special arrangements with the facility, call before leaving to be sure that plans for your visit have been made and are in place.
- Check clothing and jewelry for compliance with visiting regulations.
- If you are bringing a child and you are not the legal guardian or parent, you must have the notarized statement from the child’s parent or legal guardian with you.
- Before leaving home, check your vehicle for contraband and/or hazardous items. This includes, but is not limited to, implements of escape, drug paraphernalia, intoxicants, poisons, any items that pose a danger to others, weapons, such as knives, scissors, or firearms, and any item used to show a gang affiliation. Remove these items before entering the correctional facility grounds.
- Arrive on the designated day during proper visiting hours.
- Leave purses, wallets, and electronic devices in your car - either in the glove compartment, or in the trunk. Be sure to lock your car!
- Do not leave any minor children waiting in the car or your visit will be ended.
- Remember to treat correctional staff with respect.
- Do not have any contraband on you when you enter the facility.
- Do not bring anything into the visiting room to give to the offender. Offenders are not permitted to take anything from the visiting area.
There are privately operated bus lines that provide transportation to many correctional facilities. Seats must be reserved in advance. Transportation to facilities may vary according to facility location. Information pertaining to each facility’s busing services may be obtained by calling the bus company, or obtaining this information via the internet. This information is provided solely as a convenience for visitors. Neither the facility, nor the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, assumes any responsibility for the quality of the transportation services provided by privately operated bus companies.
If you are an immediate family member of the offender, it is always good to keep the offender informed of any change in your address and phone number.
GRAVE ILLNESS OR DEATH OF A FAMILY MEMBER
One of the unfortunate realities that may occur during your loved one’s incarceration may be the grave illness or death of a family member.
It is the family’s responsibility to notify the facility in the event of grave illness or death of an offender’s relative. All information related to the illness or death should be provided as soon as possible. You should notify the Chaplain or Supervising Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator if the event occurs during regular business hours. After hours, or on the weekend, contact the facility and ask for the Watch Commander.
If a family member is gravely ill, you may want the offender to have a final visit with their loved one. If a family member passes away, you may want the offender to attend the viewing or the funeral. The approval for a Funeral or Death Bed Visit rests solely with the facility Superintendent. The only persons with whom the offender may visit for funeral or deathbed visits are: father, mother, legal guardian, or former legal guardian, child, brother, half-brother, sister, half-sister, spouse, grandparent, grandchild, ancestral uncle or ancestral aunt. All visitations of this type must be within New York State.
The relationship between the offender and the deceased must be verified by Departmental records, and/ or by furnishing documents that clearly prove the relationship (i.e., birth certificates, obituary notice, marriage certificates). These documents must be provided in a timely fashion for a favorable decision to be considered.
Please remember that final approval for an offender to attend the funeral or deathbed visit rests solely with the facility Superintendent. PLEASE NOTE: Deathbed visits may only occur at recognized healthcare facilities.
OFFENDER MONIES/OFFENDER ACCOUNTS
Offenders are not permitted to physically possess money while they are incarcerated. This includes paper money and coins. In order to allow offenders to buy things they need or want, their money is held in their offender account. Jobs, assignments and gifts from family and friends are the usual sources for these funds. The offender can use the money in their account to buy items from the commissary or send money home.
You need to know that often there are court surcharges, fees, or other encumbrances that offenders may have that are unpaid. Monies coming in from the outside will be applied to those outstanding obligations. Other than the offender’s incentive wage, funds may not be available for commissary and other items until these obligations are satisfied.
Preferably, money should be sent in the form of a money order or a certified check. It is recommended that you do not send cash or a personal check. Personal checks may take longer to clear. Please include the offender’s DIN as well as your name and complete address on the check or money order. Unidentified money coming into the facility through the mail will be treated as contraband. Visitors may also leave money.
Offenders receive a monthly print-out of their account balances. Any questions that you may have regarding the offender’s account should be directed to the offender. He/she has access to that information in the facility. Facilities will not give information over the phone concerning the status of an offender’s account.
The facility commissary is a store located inside the facility specifically for offenders. It may carry a wide variety of items. This includes personal care items such as shampoo, soap, and toothpaste. An offender is entitled to a "commissary buy" every 2 weeks if they have available funds and they are not otherwise restricted by disciplinary dispositions.
PLEASE NOTE: The facility provides personal hygiene items, such as toothpaste, toothbrush, and soap, if the offender is in need and makes a request.
The Department has a disciplinary system in effect which offenders must follow at all times while in custody. When offenders arrive at a reception facility, they are given a handbook of appropriate behavior and the violations. Offenders are strongly encouraged to become familiar with these rules.
When a violation of a rule has occurred, the offender will be issued a misbehavior report. These misbehavior reports are classified into three categories:
- Tier 1
- Tier 2
- Tier 3
Once a misbehavior report is issued, the offender will attend a disciplinary hearing for a Tier II or Tier III offense. If the offender is found guilty, he / she will receive a disposition appropriate to the Tier system. The more severe instances of offender misbehavior may result in the offender being transferred to a more restrictive living condition.
Tier II and III disciplinary "tickets" (misbehavior reports) cost $5, if an offender is found guilty. This will come out of the offender’s account.
At the conclusion of the disciplinary process, if the offender disagrees with the disposition or the process, they have the right to appeal the decision.
Offenders can speak to any supervisor regarding the conduct of correctional staff, unlawful discrimination, harassment, or unfair policy / procedures. There is also a formal grievance process which provides each offender an orderly, fair, simple, and expeditious manner, with an appeal method of resolving grievances.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT PROGRAMS AND SERVICES
The Department offers an extensive array of programs and services which offenders may utilize to re-direct their lives to becoming productive, law-abiding members of society. Programs include educational and vocational training, substance abuse treatment, parenting skills, anger management, domestic violence counseling, health education, sex offender treatment, religious services, and many more. Following is a general listing of programs available.
The Division of Education oversees all academic, college, vocational, and recreation programs. Education is also responsible for Hispanic Services. The objective of education programs is to provide offenders with the skills and credentials that will assist them to become productive members of the community upon release.
- Academic Education is provided in all general confinement correctional facilities. The core academic programs are: Adult Basic Education (ABE), High School Equivalency preparation (Pre-GED and GED), English as a Second Language (ESL) /Bilingual, Cell Study, and Computer Assisted Instruction. Offenders who are 21 years of age or younger may also receive Special Education and Title 1 services. All offenders who enter the system without a verified high school credential are determined to have an academic need and required to participate in school until attainment of a high school equivalency diploma.
- College programs are offered at several facilities in partnership with colleges, funding sources and the correctional facility. An offender must have a verified high school credential to participate in a college program. For a complete listing of college programs and locations, please refer to the Department’s website. Offenders with a high school diploma or equivalency may participate in post secondary correspondence programs at any facility. The offender and /or family member are responsible for the cost of correspondence courses. Correspondence courses must be from an accredited institution of higher education and approved by the Education Supervisor at the facility.
- Vocational programs are offered in 30 different trade areas. These programs are available at most general confinement facilities. Offenders who enter the system without a verified work history or employment skills are identified as having a vocational need and required to participate in a vocational program. All vocational programs are competency based. Offenders complete tasks and modules that lead to the earning of job titles. All job titles are taken from the O-NET and represent real world jobs. In order to satisfy the vocational need, an offender must complete a cluster of job titles from the Employment Readiness Title Chart.
- Vocational programs offer qualified offenders the opportunity to participate in Department of Labor Apprenticeship Training Programs. Certain programs also offer Industry recognized certifications such as NCCER (construction trades), IC3 (computer skills), Serve-Safe (food handling).
- Recreational programs offer the offenders the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of recreational activities, including organized sports, participation with community groups, fine arts, in-house video programs and wellness programs.
- Offender organizations are intended to provide structured and meaningful leisure time activities that will assist the re-entry process by instilling teamwork, leadership skills, good sportsmanship and wellness.
- Hispanic and Cultural Services ensure that all limited English proficient individuals have access to all programs and services within the Department.
Guidance and Counseling Programs
The main purpose of counseling in the Department is to assist offenders in adjusting to facility life and to establish a foundation for successful re-integration into the community upon release from custody.
Each offender is assigned an Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator. The coordinator is responsible for identifying the offender’s needs, providing counseling and guidance services throughout the incarceration, and securing appropriate services. Offenders meet with their coordinator within 5 business days of arrival at their facility. The coordinator will seek information about family and emergency contacts at that time.
Offenders are encouraged to communicate any facility and interpersonal concerns with their assigned coordinator who is in the best position to assist them. The offender’s assigned Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator is generally the primary person with whom you will have contact.
The Division of Ministerial, Family and Volunteer Services
- Ministerial Services: The facility has Chaplains who work closely with the offender population and provide religious counseling. There are weekly services in most facilities for the major faith groups and there are a variety of other religious activities as well. Ministerial Services is also responsible for meeting the religious needs of offenders who ascribe to less well-known religious faiths. If you would like to speak with a Chaplain during a visit, please notify the Visiting Room Officer or call in advance to schedule an appointment.
- Family Services: seeks to enrich and strengthen family relationships in anticipation of the offender’s eventual return to the community and his/her familial reintegration. The Family Reunion Program provides approved offenders and their families the opportunity to meet for a designated period in a private home-like setting.
- Volunteer Services: promotes the involvement of responsible community persons in the continuum of services and programs made available to the incarcerated offender and his/her family.
The Department operates a Transitional Services Program to assist offenders in achieving a successful transition to the community. Transitional Services programs include:
- Phase 1-Introductory Phase - is designed to assist offenders to begin planning for their transition to the community.
- Phase II-Thinking for a Change/Moving On - Thinking for a Change is for male offenders and Moving On for female offenders consists of lessons designed to provide offenders with the cognitive and behavior changing tools necessary to lead to successful and crime-free lives.
- Phase III-The Transitional Phase - is designed to assist offenders in their final preparation for release to the community. Offenders will be placed in Phase III within 120 days of an approved release date.
- Aggression Replacement Training (ART) - is designed to assist offenders in identifying and controlling their aggressive behavior.
- Offender Program Associate (IPA) - The purpose of the IPA program is to provide meaningful work assignments for offenders with advanced education and training, and to assist staff in providing program services to offenders in each facility.
- Network - is a voluntary, therapeutic program that uses a hierarchal process to assist offenders in learning cooperative work and leadership skills while demonstrating responsible behaviors.
- Community Lifestyles - is an open ended residential therapeutic program. It provides a structured dormitory program that supports the essential correctional goals of order and safety.
Substance Abuse Treatment Services
Most correctional facilities offer substance abuse treatment services. These services focus on the treatment of alcoholism and addiction to drugs. These treatment services are recommended for offenders with a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse, or present with significant risk factors for such abuse. It is important to understand that an offender’s refusal to participate in a recommended program may affect early release. Offenders with a history of addiction and/or alcoholism with special needs such as mental health issues, sensorial disabilities, developmental disabilities, and long-term medical issues are provided specialized substance abuse treatment programs.
Additional Treatment Programs
The Department offers sex offender counseling, domestic violence services and aggression counseling to offenders that have a need for such treatment.
Facility staff works with Veteran’s Administration staff to make offenders aware of benefits and services available to him or her. Some facilities have residential programs specifically for veterans.
MEDICAL/DENTAL/MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Every offender in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has access to medical, dental, and mental health services.
- Medical Services: Medical staff is on-site at all correctional facilities. Offenders have access to medical services on a daily basis through each facility’s sick call procedure. Facilities differ in the level of medical services they may be able to provide. Offenders with special medical needs (short term or long term) may be transferred to a facility which can better meet those needs. For the chronic or terminally ill, the Department provides Regional Medical Units (RMUs) in selected facilities across the state. When medically necessary, offenders may be transported to a community hospital for emergency treatment or other medical services.
- Dental Services: Offenders receive periodic dental checkups. Follow-up or emergency treatment is provided as needed. As with medical services, offenders may be transferred to another facility or to a community hospital for treatment when necessary.
- Mental Health Services: NYSDOCCS partners with the NYS Office of Mental Health in providing special programs along a continuum of care for offenders with a mental illness. Upon reception into the DOCCS system and throughout incarceration as necessary, offenders can be referred and assessed by OMH staff to determine the amount of mental health services required and are then assigned to facilities where that level of service is available. Although not on site at every facility, each facility has a procedure in place for offenders to request and receive such services. Services include crisis intervention, individual short and long term counseling, group counseling, and special programs and services for those who are eligible.
PLEASE NOTE: Offender health information is considered confidential and its release is protected by the Federal HIPAA Law (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), the New York State Public Health Law, and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision policies. Privacy requirements do not allow the disclosure of specific health information without offender authorization. All requests for offender health information should be directed to the health services unit at the facility.
Request for mental health information should be addressed to the facility/Satellite Mental Health Unit, to the attention of the Unit Chief. If the facility does not have a mental health presence, the request should be forwarded to the Office of Mental Health, Bureau of Forensic Services, 44 Holland Ave., Albany, NY 12229.
Separate written releases must be obtained for disclosing substance abuse treatment information in accordance with 42 CFR Part 2 and DOCCS Directive #2010 - Departmental Records. In accordance with Department Directives, an offender must sign a Release of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Records form #1079 or #1080 to authorize release of alcohol and drug treatment records.
Questions with regard to transfers should first be directed to the offender’s assigned Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator.
The Office of Classification and Movement in Central Office can also be contacted regarding transfer-related information. You may write to them at:
The Office of Classification and Movement
New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
The Harriman State Campus - Building #2
1220 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12226-2050
RETURNING TO THE COMMUNITY - COMMUNITY SUPERVISION
Offenders are encouraged to maintain a positive disciplinary record and participate in programs according to their individualized program plan. Offenders can lose good time for not participating in their recommended program plan and therefore may not be eligible for early release. Therefore, we encourage you to support them in maintaining a positive disciplinary adjustment so that they will be more apt to pursue and attend needed programs.
Generally speaking, there are four ways to be released from DOCCS custody back to the community:
- Presumptive Release/Merit Time
- Parole Board Release
- Conditional Release
- Completion of Maximum Sentence (Max-out)
Presumptive Release/Merit Time
There are other avenues for release earlier than the court imposed minimum sentence. An offender may be considered for presumptive release based on crime and sentence, satisfactory disciplinary and program participation, time already served, and prior criminal history. Questions should be directed to the offender’s assigned Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator.
Parole Board Release
Parole Board Commissioners may grant release after a minimum portion of the sentence is served.
A statutory type of release that the Board of Parole does not have discretion to grant or deny.
- Indeterminate sentences, where there is a minimum and maximum sentence imposed, the offender must serve 2/3 of their maximum sentence with no loss of good time.
- Determinate sentences, where there is a flat length of time, the offender must serve 6/7 of their sentence, and have no loss of good time.
Completion of Maximum Sentence (Max-Out)
An offender is released from prison after serving the maximum term of their sentence. This can occur in the following instances:
- The offender is not paroled and lost all good time.
- The offender is returned to prison for violating the conditions of their release with less than one year remaining on the original sentence, and a Parole Board decision that they be held to the maximum expiration (ME) of their sentence, or, the offender refuses conditional release.