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, December 7, 2000

Prison safety, inmate program enrollments continue to increase

Prisons have continued to become safer for staff and inmates under the administration of Governor George E. Pataki while more and more inmates continue to be enrolled in rehabilitative programs, Commissioner Glenn S. Goord said today.

"The Department of Correctional Services continues to set the benchmark for the safe and secure operation of prison facilities, which must occur in order to give rehabilitative programs the opportunity to be successful. The professionalism of our uniformed and civilian employees continues to provide felons with the opportunity to participate in programs that will help offenders return to society with the greatest chance for successful reintegration," Commissioner Goord said.

The Commissioner made his remarks as he released a policy paper today evaluating the effects of the state's expansion of maximum-security disciplinary housing space as well as the overall status of inmate programs.

Among the highlights of the report are the following:

  • All 1,500 disciplinary housing double-cells (3,000 beds) proposed by Governor Pataki and approved by the Legislature since 1997 are now in full operation.
  • That has allowed more than 2,200 general confinement cells to be freed up by moving inmates "keeplocked" in them for disciplinary violations into the new disciplinary cells.
  • Freeing up those general confinement cells has helped reduce the number of "state ready" inmates awaiting transfer from county jails from a record 4,425 in July of 1999 to fewer than 700 last month.
  • A total of 5,505 inmates were in disciplinary housing on November 27, 2000, only 234 more than the 5,271 on December 31, 1997, just before the new disciplinary housing cells began opening in January of 1998. Last month's total was the lowest number in such housing since March of 1999.
  • The amount of time inmates are sentenced to spend in disciplinary housing has dropped each year since 1997, when the average sentence was 253 days, to 193 days in July of 2000.
  • The actual time served in disciplinary status has dropped over the same period from an average of 181 days in 1997 to 169 in July of 2000.
  • The percentage of inmates serving disciplinary sentences of a month or less dropped by a third between 1997-99, while the percentage serving 1-3 years decreased by a quarter. The percentage serving three years or more remained the same.
  • Screening of inmates entering the double-cells has resulted in unusual incident rates of one-half of those found in single-cell disciplinary housing units.
  • In large part as a result of increased disciplinary housing space, the number of inmate-on-staff assaults last year was the fewest in 14 years.
  • Additionally, the number of inmate-on-inmate assaults was the fewest in seven years.

" The Governor's decision to increase disciplinary housing space to remove disruptive inmates from the general population has made facilities safer for staff and inmates alike," Commissioner Goord said. "Having the disciplinary housing unit space available to lock up inmates who violate prisons rules removes from general population the inmates who are a threat to staff, other inmates and facility operations. That allows the majority of inmates to continue their increasing participation in meaningful programs. That better prepares them for release and their return to our streets."

On program data, Commissioner Goord noted that between December 1995-99:

  • Education staffing for inmate programs has increased by 9 percent, compared to a 4 percent increase in the inmate population.
  • The total number of inmates in daily academic programming has increased by 27 percent.
  • The number of inmates in daily vocational enrollment has increased by 8 percent.
  • The number of high school equivalency degrees awarded annually has increased by 14 percent.

In addition, the Commissioner noted that, annually:

  • More than 28,000 inmates are participating in drug treatment programs.
  • Nearly 20,000 inmates are participating in aggression replacement programs.
  • More than 4,350 inmates are participating in sex offender treatment programs.
  • More than 15,000 inmates are participating in transitional services programs to prepare them for release.

Inmates released in 1999 served an average of 31 months in prison. The average inmate therefore had the opportunity to complete multiple programs, since each requires less than a year to complete.

Commissioner Goord said, "There is no doubt that our level of successful programming is directly related to our employees: the ability of our uniformed staff to maintain security, and the commitment of our civilian program staff to offer every inmate the opportunity to participate in meaningful programs."