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, March 26, 1998

Eastern's Braille transcription program begins third year of production

NAPANOCH - The burgeoning Braille Transcription Center at Eastern Correctional Facility is beginning its third year of providing Braille publications for blind and visually impaired school children throughout New York State.

Inmates assigned to the transcription center have to date converted almost 140 books to more than 9,000 pages of Braille for needy students. The 25 inmates who work in the center under the supervision of vocational instructors are expecting to produce an additional 15,000 pages of Braille this year at the request of school teachers throughout New York.

"The Department of Correctional Services and those agencies that work with the blind and visually impaired in New York State are to be commended for providing this valuable service to the needy," said Governor George E. Pataki. "This innovative program has grown substantially since it started two years ago and its continued growth means greater independence and self-sufficiency for even more blind and visually impaired school children."

Commissioner Glenn S. Goord of the Department of Correctional Services said the program offers many benefits.

"There's a definite need for this type of service and we have the personnel, expertise and equipment available to meet that need," said Commissioner Goord. "Blind and visually impaired students receive the classroom materials they need to succeed in school, and inmates are learning computer and other work skills while making restitution to the community. It's a program that's already benefitted many people, and one that will continue to provide more benefits in the future."

An extension of a successful smaller-scale program launched at the Rikers Island jail in New York City in early 1994, the Braille Transcription Center also produces large-text publications for visually impaired students. As a result of the program, many students who in the past have had to do without certain classroom materials are now getting those materials.

The unit's two primary clients - the New York State School for the Blind in Batavia and the New York City Board of Education Vision Resource Center - request specific Braille and large-text publications based on input from school teachers throughout the state. The two resource centers also provide the Eastern unit with the paper needed for the transcription process.

Once the unit receives a request from one of the resource centers, the textbook or document is typed into one of several computers donated to Eastern by groups like the United Way of Harlem, Simon and Shuster and the New York State School for the Blind. The text is proofread by an inmate, then converted to Braille form via a specialized software program. The completed document is checked for accuracy once again, forwarded to a special printer and produced in Braille pages, proofread a third time, then bound and shipped.

"We have been very, very pleased with what we've received, as have the students and their teachers," said Emily Leyenberger, director of the New York State School for the Blind. "I have been very impressed with the level of professionalism and dedication to the program. The Department of Correctional Services seems to be as committed to getting Braille books to blind school children as I am."

Eastern, a maximum-security prison located in Ulster County, opened in 1900. It currently houses 1,038 inmates and the Department's Sensorially Disabled Unit, where blind and visually impaired and deaf and hearing impaired inmates receive specialized training in the hopes they can be mainstreamed into the general prison population.