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:

Tuesday, May 26, 1998

DOCS opening eight maximum-security disciplinary housing units

Eight maximum-security prison disciplinary units proposed by Governor George E. Pataki as part of his 1997-98 budget are opening as scheduled - with some taking in small groups of inmates as they begin filling the units, others undergoing final "shake downs" before the first inmates arrive, and the rest finalizing construction to open within the next several weeks.

Governor Pataki said, "The men and women who work in the state's 69 prisons deserve a safe and secure work place. That includes having the disciplinary unit cells to lock up offenders who assault them and violate other prison rules. That frees up general confinement cells, allowing the prison system to accept from the counties those offenders who have been sentenced to state prison. Additionally, as more violent offenders receive longer sentences under my 1995 Sentencing Reform Act, the prison system will have more cells to lock up these violent offenders."

Prison Commissioner Glenn S. Goord said, "Few people realize we have nearly 70,000 inmates but fewer than 21,000 cells. We need more cells, especially in disciplinary Special Housing Units (SHU's), to house inmates who assault staff and disrupt our facilities. The lack of cell space means we have had to use thousands of general confinement cells for disruptive inmates. These new SHU's will allow us to move disruptive inmates out of general confinement and into disciplinary housing. That will allow prisons to operate more efficiently, and inmate programs more effectively, with disruptive inmates removed from general confinement areas."

Commissioner Goord noted there are approximately 5,350 inmates serving disciplinary sentences either in an SHU or locked up in general confinement cells. There are only 2,561 SHU cells in the prison system, excluding the eight new units now coming into operation.

The eight units include one opened on April 28 at the Orleans Correctional Facility in Albion, at Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie on May 7 and one opened on May 12 at the Cayuga Correctional Facility in Moravia. All three units are roughly half-full and will continue receiving approximately 50 inmates each week until they reach capacity.

The fourth unit, at the Lakeview Correctional Facility at Brocton in Chautauqua County, opens within the next week. Similar units are scheduled to open in June at the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy and at the Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon. The last two units will open in July, at the Gouverneur Correctional Facility in Gouverneur and the Collins Correctional Facility at Helmuth in Erie County.

The eight units are based upon a prototype that opened last year at the Marcy Correctional Facility in Oneida County. Having monitored that facility's initial operations, Commissioner Goord decided that security staffing at these units should be increased from 19 Correction Officers and two Sergeants to 26 Officers and four Sergeants. Governor Pataki authorized the increased staffing. Staffing also includes nine in support plus four each in health and program services.

Just like the maximum-security Special Housing Units constructed when these eight prisons were built, these new units will also house disruptive inmates. The older SHU's will continue to generally house inmates who misbehave at those facilities, while the new units will also serve prisons throughout the state. Whether located in a maximum- or medium-security prison, all disciplinary housing units are constructed to maximum-security specifications.

Prior to the opening of each unit, assigned staff receive two weeks of intensive training encompassing issues like cell extraction, search procedures, suicide prevention, SHU procedures, defensive tactics and other security and operational issues. Training is expected to continue on a regular basis.

Contact between inmates and staff, and other inmates than cellmates, will be minimal in the new units. All inmates will be fed in their cells and each cell also has a shower, meaning there's no need for staff to escort inmates to a community mess hall or shower area. In addition, each cell can be accessed through a controlled rear door to an enclosed recreation area for the required one-hour-a-day outdoor recreation, further minimizing contact between inmates and staff.

"These specially-built cells are designed to safeguard staff by eliminating the two major areas of contact in a disciplinary housing unit - escorts for showers and for outdoor recreation mandated by the courts," said Commissioner Goord.

Inmates in disciplinary housing units are confined to their cells around-the-clock with the exception of medical and legal appointments, weekly family visits and one hour each day of court-mandated outdoor recreation.

Governor Pataki's 1997-98 expansion plan also included construction of a 750 cell, double-occupancy maximum-security prison to be opened in Malone in July 1999. The 1998-99 budget calls for the construction of a new prison identical in size to Malone.