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, July 22, 2004

Prison commissioner lifts freeze on Correction Officer reassignments to fill critical vacancies;
Some staff will move closer to home as transfers balance vacancies as ‘down-sizing’ continues

State Correction Officers have through Aug. 5 to file for reassignment to their facilities of job preference before those seniority-based preferences are re-ranked on Aug. 6, Commissioner Glenn S. Goord announced today, and the results used to begin a phased-in filling of 408 vacant positions at 61 of the state’s 70 prisons.

Those vacancies are at prisons north and west of Albany, while prisons in the lower mid-Hudson valley have approximately 160 excess staff. The excess staff consists of newer Officers who, when their training was completed, were assigned to prisons that lacked seniority-based transfer-in lists.

With backfills, hundreds more Officers could exercise their seniority rights and choose to relocate to more preferred facilities before the process is concluded this summer. While the re-ranking also impacts the 1,809 Sergeants and Lieutenants, the major impact of the re-ranking will fall among the 19,106 Officers.

After the seniority re-ranking and voluntary staff reassignments, the Commissioner will know how many of 215 Officers chose to remain in temporary positions that they know are targeted for elimination at Collins prison in Erie County, Orleans in the county of the same name, Marcy in Oneida County, Cape Vincent and Watertown in Jefferson County and Riverview in St. Lawrence County. The temporary positions were created when the prisons were double-bunked in the 1990s. Since the planned elimination of these top bunks was first announced as part of the prison “down-sizing” plan in 2000, employees have known that staffing levels at these prisons were being reduced to reflect the decrease in inmates and work load. In fact, there has been sufficient attrition at these six prisons to allow the 231 most senior Officers in these temporary positions to be made permanent. Officers remaining in the 215 excess temporary positions after the re-ranking will be required to return to their permanent positions.

The state budget will determine the future assignments of 152 Officers at three facilities that the Department has targeted for closure: Camp Pharsalia in Chenango County, the minimum-security camp attached to the Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility in Saratoga County and the Fulton work release facility in the Bronx. It is expected some of those Officers will opt to move to other prisons under the re-ranking. There are sufficient prison beds upstate and in New York City to relocate inmates now housed in these prisons.

“My original plan,” Commissioner Goord said, “was to await a final state budget before initiating this re-ranking and reassignment of staff across the system. That would have provided all employees, especially those at the nine affected facilities, a clearer picture of their options. Everyone would have then been on an equal footing. But the safety and security of our prisons require that we start transfers to fill some critical vacancies and balance the rest of them across the system. It is also time to resume allowing staff movement to more preferential facilities, which generally means closer to their homes.”

Commissioner Goord emphasized that he would use the re-ranked list only to allow transfers to fill vacancies he considered critical. “There will still be no attempt to complete all moves and fill all vacancies before a budget is passed. We will balance out the vacancies in the system while awaiting a budget that shows us the complete picture of our needs.”

He added, “Until that picture develops, I intend to maintain some vacancies in the four prisons in Oneida County to offer jobs closer to home to some of the staff to be displaced at Camp Pharsalia. I will also hold some vacancies at four to five prisons in the greater Albany region to accommodate some of the staff being displaced at Mt. McGregor’s camp. There are sufficient vacancies in New York City prisons to accommodate most of the Fulton staff.” The Commissioner explained that, while employees in excess posts at six facilities have known for 3-1/2 years that their jobs were targeted and have had ample opportunity to reassign, those at the three prisons targeted for closure only learned of those initiatives six months ago.

The last re-ranking was conducted in November 2003. The planned May 2004 re-ranking was delayed in hopes it would occur after this year’s state budget was finalized. Commissioner Goord noted that in a letter dated July 8, 2004, the statewide August re-ranking and the reassignment of staff in excess temporary positions were supported by the New York State Correction Officer and Police Benevolent Association, the bargaining unit for the Department’s Officers and Sergeants, who make up two-thirds of the agency’s work force.

Transfers into most facilities have been sharply limited to the most critical vacancies since a “down-sizing” plan began in October 2000 to vacate 6,600 surplus inmate beds at 36 prisons and to attrit Correction Officer as well as other uniformed and civilian positions associated with them. Most employees have known since that time which jobs were targeted. In most cases, employees have already attrited out of those positions.

The prison population has declined from 71,538 inmates in December 1999 to today’s 64,695. Correction Officer staffing has thus far declined over the same period from 20,158 positions to 19,106.

Here is a breakdown of the remaining impact on the six prisons with Officers in temporary positions:

  • Cape Vincent has 102 Officers in temporary positions, 73 of whom are excess. It needs to vacate 240 beds, but it already has 246 empty beds. This will result in 221 Officers and a capacity for 882 inmates.
  • Collins has 54 Officers in temporary positions, seven of whom are excess. It needs to vacate 59 beds, but now has 70 empty beds. This will result in 364 Officers and a capacity for 1,228 inmates.
  • Marcy has 85 Officers in temporary positions, 26 of whom are excess. It needs to vacate 120 beds, and now has 119 empty beds. This will result in 281 Officers and a capacity for 1,282 inmates.
  • Orleans has 91 Officers in temporary positions, 24 of whom are excess. It needs to vacate 150 beds, and now has 149 empty beds. This will result in 249 Officers and a capacity for 1,082 inmates
  • Riverview 78 Officers in temporary positions, 62 of whom are excess. It needs to vacate 240 beds, but now has 253 empty beds. This will result in 221 Officers and a capacity for 882 inmates.
  • Watertown has 36 Officers in temporary positions, 13 of whom are excess. It needs to vacate 83 beds, but now has 87 empty beds. This will result in 222 Officers and a capacity for 670 inmates.