Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
David A. Paterson, Governor
Brian Fischer, Commissioner

Contact: Erik Kriss
Office of Public Information
(518) 457-8182
ejkriss@doccs.ny.gov
www.doccs.ny.gov

For immediate release:

February 18, 2009

Correctional Services Commissioner Outlines Proposals to Improve State Prison System in Address to Citizens Crime Commission of New York City

New York State Department of Correctional Services Commissioner Brian Fischer outlined proposals aimed at improving the State’s prison system, from correctional facility closures to sentencing reforms, in an address to a Citizens Crime Commission of New York City breakfast today.

In remarks delivered at the Mutual of America Building at 320 Park Avenue in Manhattan, Commissioner Fischer highlighted the State’s success in reducing its crime rate and prison population over the last decade. He also emphasized the resulting need for proposals advanced by Governor David A. Paterson to allow the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) to be managed in a more sensible and efficient way.

“Our success means the time has come for major changes in the prison system,” Commissioner Fischer said. “Governor Paterson has rightly recognized this as an opportunity to save taxpayers significant money by allowing me to manage the prison system more intelligently.”

Governor Paterson’s 2009-10 Executive Budget, currently under negotiation with the State Legislature, proposes closing correctional camps and some prison annexes at a time when court and legislative mandates require enhanced and expanded treatment and services for sex offenders and inmates with mental illness. “By closing these facilities and saving taxpayers nearly $30 million a year, we can address those new priorities,” Commissioner Fischer said. “And we can achieve closure with virtually no layoffs ... Now more than ever, we need to bring State government’s expenses in line with its shrinking revenues.”

Commissioner Fischer detailed the extensive in-prison substance abuse treatment programs the Department offers in light of ongoing public debate about reforming New York’s drug laws. He noted that more than 30,000 offenders – about a third of those who spent time incarcerated - participated in Department treatment programs last year alone. And he discussed the variety of ways the State is working to reduce recidivism by better preparing offenders for their return to society – including the planned opening this year of “reentry units” at Hudson (Columbia County) and Bayview (Manhattan) Correctional Facilities, following the first two such units last year and in 2007 at Orleans Correctional Facility in Western New York.

Governor Paterson’s budget proposal would also implement graduated sanctions for minor parole violations, expand eligibility for DOCS’ successful Shock Incarceration program and create a limited six-month time credit allowance for offenders – including some violent offenders - who display good behavior and achieve enhanced program participation during incarceration.

“These proposals will not only free up more prison space, but will also provide incentives for offenders to improve themselves and, in the process, keep our prisons safer,” Commissioner Fischer said. “These efforts capitalize on and expand our successful programs while helping reduce the need for expensive prison beds.”

Commissioner Fischer also urged support for another Sentencing Commission proposal that would create fixed sentences for most crimes.

“Determinate sentencing addresses the serious problem of disparity of sentences,” the Commissioner said. “It also provides offenders with a clear understanding that to earn time off their court-imposed sentence, they must complete mandated treatment programs as well as avoid serious disciplinary problems … This fosters the concept of accepting personal responsibility, a concept often ignored by too many young offenders.”

The Citizens Crime Commission of New York City is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization working to reduce crime and to improve the criminal justice system in the community. The Commission played a significant role in developing the crime-fighting policies that led to New York’s historic recent reduction in crime.

The full version of Commissioner Fischer’s speech can be found at: http://www.doccs.ny.gov/Commissioner/Speeches/2009_CitizensCrimeCommission.html