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, April 24, 2001

Governor's policies continue to 'right-size' prison population
22 facilities added to list of 14 to target 6,600-bed take down

Governor George E. Pataki's "right-sizing" of the state's prison system is projected to lead to a 9 percent decrease in the inmate population between April 1, 2000, and April 1, 2002, with virtually all of the reduction among nonviolent offenders, according to Commissioner Glenn S. Goord.

Commissioner Goord today cited the projected 6,600-inmate decline as he added 22 medium- and minimum-security facilities to the list of 14 announced in October that are targeted for bed take downs. October's hiring freeze at 14 facilities accommodated a take down of 2,423 beds. Today's announcement expands the number of targeted facilities to 36 to take down a total of 6,600 beds. All 36 will be under a hiring freeze until their attrition goals are met by staffing areas presented in the accompanying chart. There will be no forced staff transfers and all staff reductions this year will occur through attrition.

The inmate population was 71,423 on April 1, 2000, and is projected to drop to 64,800 on April 1, 2002. Today's population is 69,406, a decrease of 2,017 since April 2000. The number of felons in county jails awaiting transfer to state prisons has also declined, from 1,629 on April 1, 2000, to 532 today.

"Right-sizing" is the Governor's policy lengthening sentences and eliminating discretionary parole for violent offenders coupled with alternative programs allowing selected nonviolent offenders to leave prison prior to completion of their court-set minimum sentences. The policy has contributed to an average rate of growth of less than 1 percent annually in the prison population between December 1994-2000.

By comparison, the average rate of growth over the 5½-year period ending June 31, 2000, was 5 percent annually among all state prison systems. The U.S. Bureau of Prison's population has increased by an average of more than 8 percent annually since 1995. (Mid-year data is the latest available from them.)

A look behind prison walls shows that "right-sizing" is occurring among the offenders held behind bars. The state's under custody prison population grew from 66,750 on December 31, 1994, to 70,154 on December 31, 2000. While that represents an inmate increase of 5 percent, it also reflects a:

  • 9.1 percent increase in violent felony offenders, from 34,463 to 37,592.
  • 0.9 percent increase in nonviolent offenders, from 32,287 to 32,562.
  • 8.4 percent decrease in drug offenders, from 23,082 down to 21,144.

"One side of Governor Pataki's 'right-sizing' policy is to ensure that we have the cells available to house the under custody increase in violent offenders," Commissioner Goord said, noting that the Governor's maximum-security expansion of 4,950 beds is the largest cell expansion in state history.

"The other side is the development and expansion of academic, vocational, drug treatment and work programs that have led to 36,620 selected nonviolent offenders earning early release since the Governor took office," Commissioner Goord said. Those programs include:

  • Shock incarceration, the six-month "boot camp" program in which the Governor raised the age limit from 34 to 39 while modifying the physical standards to allow participation by the disabled;
  • Merit time, allowing nonviolent inmates to earn a 1/6th reduction in their minimum sentences, and
  • The Willard Drug Treatment Campus, allowing many offenders to undergo 90 days of intensive drug treatment instead of serving an average of nine months in a general confinement prison.

Commissioner Goord noted that of those 36,620 inmates earning early release, 5,097 of them would still be housed in medium- or minimum-security prisons today if not for those programs. That means "right sizing" obviated the need to construct 5,097 lower-security beds. Not having to house those nonviolent inmates has contributed to the drop in the prison population.

"Simultaneous with the continuing decline in the inmate population this fiscal year," Commissioner Goord added, "we will see staff choose to take normal reassignments to other facilities. At the same time, we will see attrition that averages 600 employees leaving the workforce annually as well as the effect of the hiring freeze at 36 facilities. The actual timing of voluntary reassignments and other attrition cannot be pinpointed in a statewide workforce of 20,600 uniformed and 12,150 civilian employees. The empty beds will therefore remain scattered throughout the system until we see staff attrition occurring at individual targeted facilities. Then, we will start consolidating those vacant beds at the targeted facilities."

The Governor's fiscal 2001-02 budget includes a $20 million savings this year by attriting at least 614 positions plus $30 million due to reduced non-personal costs by having fewer inmates in the system.

Commissioner Goord said the beds to be vacated include top double bunks, "squeeze beds" that were added to increase capacity and beds whose removal will increase operational efficiency, such as those partially obstructing doorways and those where direct observation of beds is diminished by location. It also vacates space in need of expensive renovation. "This take down will make these facilities even safer and easier to manage while placing less stress on their physical plants," the Commissioner said.

Commissioner Goord continued, "Any changes in the number of arrests, indictments, convictions or parole release rates will affect new commitments and our projections. We will monitor them and continue to plan accordingly. As a result, many of the top double bunks will remain in place, but vacant. That means we will have the space available to accommodate any unexpected increase in new commitments. It will also give us something we have never had before: vacant but usable space immediately available in case of an incident or any other emergency for which we might have to relocate a large number of inmates."

The staff hiring and transfer freeze will not affect untargeted prisons, where staff vacancies will continue to be filled, Commissioner Goord said. Critical exceptions that will be filled at the targeted facilities include, for example, cooks and power plant operators.

Note: The following details a breakdown of the take down.

Breakdown of the take down

The accompanying chart, reading from left, shows:

  • Facilities affected by the bed take down in Phase I and today's Phase II. The bed take downs at some Phase I facilities have been increased as Phase II begins. Those seeking the original Phase I reduction numbers can find them in the October press release on the Department's web site.
  • The general confinement capacity of targeted facilities on 03/01/00 and the maximum number of beds identified for take down at those facilities by the 03/01/02 target date. Note it totals 7,748 beds, of which only 6,600 will actually be vacated. Exactly how many beds will be vacated at each facility will be driven by the staff attrition at each facility. There will be adjustments made at each facility until the 6,600 target is reached from the maximum pool of 7,748 beds identified for take down.
  • Total staffing and then the staff remaining after staff attrition occurs - if the maximum number of beds were vacated at each facility. That is not expected to occur at most facilities since only 6,600 of the 7,748 identified beds will be taken down. Thus, the attrition goals shown are the maximum reduction in staffing that facilities would see if every targeted bed was vacated.
  • How the total staffing and goal by attrition breaks down by facility by discipline. Again, these numbers are based upon taking down the maximum 7,748 beds, which will generally not occur.

Here is a recap of the maximum staffing attrition by discipline if all 7,748 beds were vacated:

Discipline Phase I Phase II Total
Security (894.00) (245.00) (1,139.00)
Support (30.50) (20.00) (50.50)
Health (2.25) 19.10 16.85
Program (149.00) (64.00) (213.00)
Total (1,075.75) (309.90) (1,385.65)

Chart by facility showing targeted attrition by area of discipline.