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:

Monday, March 26, 2001

Annual inmate work exhibit goes on display in Albany, March 26-30

The sixth annual "Prison Inmates at Work for Taxpayers and the Community" exhibit will be showcased from March 26-30 at the north end of the concourse at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

The exhibit will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Department employees will be on hand to answer questions. Commissioner Glenn S. Goord and state Sen. Michael Nozzolio, chairman of the Senate committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections, will speak at the exhibit and host a reception for visitors at 5 p.m. on March 27.

This year's exhibit will once again catalogue the valuable work performed by supervised inmate community service crews in municipalities throughout the state. Each year, these crews work more than one million hours helping communities and not-for-profit agencies complete needed projects that would otherwise not be undertaken because of local financial constraints. The work includes tasks like repairing senior citizen centers and Little League fields; clearing debris from area roadways, community parks, waterways and cemeteries, and helping New Yorkers recover from natural disasters like ice storms, tornadoes, flooding and heavy snows.

At times, the efforts of these crews are nothing less than life saving. In 1998, for example, community service crews worked for many weeks helping North Country residents dig out from a deadly ice storm that disrupted power and transportation. And just last November, a crew from Wyoming Correctional Facility was dispatched to the town of Amherst to help dig out area fire hydrants in the wake of a record 25-inch snowfall. Less than two hours after the crew cleared a particular hydrant, firefighters were able to easily access it to save a nearby residence that had caught fire.

"The Department of Correctional Services is to be commended for continuing to provide the resources to help our needy neighbors throughout New York state," said Governor George E. Pataki. "It is highly appropriate to deploy inmate work crews where help is needed."

Noting that more than 2,000 inmates go out on supervised work crews on a typical weekday, Commissioner Goord said they'll continue to be made available to those in need.

"We're pleased that we've been able to help tens of thousands of needy New Yorkers over the past few years and we will continue to make our services available," said Commissioner Goord. "This Department has always strived to be a good neighbor in the communities where our facilities are located and offer whatever assistance we can to those in need."

The work exhibit also will focus on the wide variety of goods manufactured by approximately 2,500 inmates on behalf of Corcraft, the Department's Division of Industries. Among other things, the inmates produce seating, desks and other furniture produced for use in schools, government offices and institutions, as well as a variety of maintenance products. Various prison-made signs, including Braille signs which are regularly produced to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, also will be on display. This year's exhibit also will include the introduction of a new low-cost office landscaping system.

"Inmate labor inside New York's prisons continues to provide wide-ranging benefits for taxpayers throughout the state," said Gov. Pataki. "Through successful prison initiatives like this program, New York's inmates are helping offset the cost of their incarceration while at the same time providing items and services of necessity to tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

"Inmates should not be sitting idly in their cells, and they are not sitting idly in their cells in New York state," continued Governor Pataki. "These various prison work and programming initiatives ensure that inmates are being productive. They are learning valuable job skills and a work ethic which hopefully will allow them to obtain employment when they are released from prison. Inmate labor in New York state continues to be a program that works for everyone."

New York's prison work program has evolved into much more than just license plates and that burgeoning production diversity, said Commissioner Goord, "is a big plus for all New Yorkers.

"Almost everything that is used inside New York's prisons - from clothing for staff and inmates to bedding and cleaning supplies - is produced by inmates under the supervision of security and civilian staff," said Commissioner Goord. "Our inmates also produce Braille textbooks for blind schoolchildren, prescription eyewear for some Medicaid clients, brochures for visitors to New York state parks, trash containers and dozens of other products. They continue to provide a valuable service for many others."

The tasks within the Division of Industries are varied. At Fishkill Correctional Facility, Corcraft inmates make furniture for use in municipal buildings and classrooms as well as beds for state and local agencies. Female inmates at Albion Correctional Facility manufacture trash containers for the streets of New York City and charcoal grills for state parks. At Bayview and Arthur Kill correctional facilities, inmates operate a telephone answering service to respond to the overflow of inquiries made each day to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. And inmates at Sullivan Correctional Facility transcribe textbooks and children's books to cassette tapes for area students with severe learning and physical disabilities.

"Productive work by inmates provides much more than assistance to communities and taxpayer-financed agencies and institutions," continued Commissioner Goord. "For one thing, there's an obligation for all people, including inmates, to contribute to their upkeep. Working also helps promote order and a safer prison environment, as inmates are not sitting idly in their cells or dormitories. That means enhanced security for the Department's 33,000 employees and 70,000 inmates."