Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner

Office of Public Information
[518] 457-8182

For immediate release:

Thursday, October 9, 1997

Commissioner seeks Adirondack Park Agency OK for Tupper Lake prison

Commissioner Glenn S. Goord formally applied today to the Adirondack Park Agency for approval to build a 750-cell maximum-security prison in the Town of Altamont in Franklin County.

Because the site is located within the Adirondack "blue line," the APA's approval is required for the project, which will generate approximately $130 million in one-time construction work and an annual budget thereafter of $19.3 million for about 367 jobs.

The new prison is part of Governor George E. Pataki's 3,100-bed prison expansion plan approved by the Legislature earlier this year. The new maximum- security beds are needed because Governor Pataki's anti-crime reforms are sending violent felons to prison for longer terms, while denying them parole and barring them from all early release programs.

Governor Pataki's anti-crime initiatives contributed to the U.S. Department of Justice's October 3 announcement that violent crime decreased in New York State last year by 13.4 percent, more than double the national average. The Department of Justice also reported violent crime in New York State has decreased by nearly 25 percent since Governor Pataki took office.

Commissioner Goord said that county jails are today holding 2,261 "state readies," convicted felons who are sentenced and ready to enter the state prison system. Of those "state readies," 1,011 have been waiting longer than allowed under applicable court orders. The state's 69 prisons are operating at 130.2 percent of overall capacity today with 69,514 inmates.

As a result, Commissioner Goord said, "It is imperative that this new prison open as quickly as possible. I cannot, however, presume the outcome of the APA's review process. So I am proceeding simultaneously on a second track: I have directed staff to begin review next week of another half-dozen sites in the Malone-Chateaugay area - outside the 'blue line' - in case alternate sites become necessary." The legislation approving the prison requires that it be built in Franklin County.

Under the APA's rules, it has 15 days to decide if the Department's application is complete or whether additional information is required. It then has 90 days to approve the project, approve it with conditions or direct it to a public hearing. If the APA decides a hearing is necessary, it must start the hearing within 30 days.

The site submitted to the APA is a 376-acre tract along Kildare Road. The prison will occupy 77 of those acres, with a buffer of approximately 1,000 feet on all sides, except for the access road running along the east side of the property. The land is owned by the International Paper Co. DOCS is currently having the land appraised. State law prohibits agencies from paying more than appraised value for any property.

The Department looked at two other sites in the Town of Altamont. One was rejected because of substantial wetlands, the other because it is located too close to commercial and residential property.

Commissioner Goord said he is in the process of forming a Community Advisory Task Force to be the Department's liaison with the Town of Altamont and the Franklin County community. The board will include up to a dozen members, including private citizens, business representatives, community leaders and elected officials. It will meet at least monthly with representatives of the Department. The meetings will be used to answer any questions from board members and to update them on all aspects of the construction project.

Commissioner Goord said, "Even though we do not yet have APA approval, I think it is vital that the Town of Altamont community be made aware of every step of the process. I want to get the board in place this month so that we have a conduit with the community as soon as possible. Residents have every right to know, understand and comment on every step of the process. "

The site on Kildare Road is nearly a mile from the nearest residence and 1½ miles from the corporate limits of the Village of Tupper Lake, from which water and sewer services will be obtained. The state will pay the cost of the lines and their connection to the village system.

The 750 cells were designed for double occupancy and have 105 square feet of interior space, making them the largest in the prison system. Three hundred of the 1,500 inmates will be cadre - those allowed out of their cells to work in the kitchen, laundry, facility and grounds maintenance. The remaining 1,200 inmates will be locked in their cells 24 hours each day, except for one hour of court-mandated daily recreation, legal, family and medical visits. Cadre will deliver their meals to their cells.

Design of the prison has already incorporated two changes from existing prisons, in recognition of the unique nature of the Adirondacks:

  • Most prisons are equipped with a water tower on stilts that stands 150 high. This facility will have a surface water tank no more than 25 feet tall, which will be sited at the side of a hill and screened from view by existing trees and brush. 
  • New construction generally calls for perimeter light towers 50-60 feet high along recreation yards. There will be no such towers at this prison.

The perimeter of the prison will consist of three fences - an interior 8-foot fence with a taut wire detection system, an inner contact detection 8-foot fence and a 16-foot outer fence. The fences will be topped and banked with rolls of razor wire. The perimeter will also be equipped with standard 20-foot poles mounted with cameras to monitor inmate movement as well as lights directed into the prison. The trees surrounding the prison will provide a visual buffer except from along the access road.

The prison will consist of five identical housing units of 150 double-occupancy cells, each equipped with a toilet and sink plus a facility-controlled shower and a rear cell door opening into an enclosed recreation area. The housing units, at two stories, will be the tallest structures in the facility, in keeping with the Commissioner's direction that the facility maintain as low a profile as possible. The facility will also have an administration building, infirmary, visiting building, gymnasium and other support units. An inmate services building will provide space for inmate meal preparation, laundry services and a commissary.

DOCS plans to award contracts for the prison in early January. Contractors will be expected to work seven days a week to complete construction in June of 1999. DOCS expects that eight percent of the work will be performed by minority-owned enterprises and six percent by women-owned business enterprises.

The estimated work force for the prison will be approximately 367, consisting of 223 security personnel, 65 in support services, 52 in program services and 27 in heath services. As many as 100 of the civilian positions could be local hires. Among security personnel, their collective bargaining agreement requires that job openings must go to the senior person who "bids" the job. Thus, the return home of Correction Officers living in the Tupper Lake area, but assigned to other parts of the state, will be determined based upon their seniority relative to others who "bid" jobs at the new facility.

Once a site has been selected, DOCS will conduct a "job fair" in the community, advising local residents of the jobs that are available and the requirements for them. The "job fair" will be announced sufficiently in advance to ensure the widest possible advertisement for the one-day event.