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

For immediate release:

February 11, 2009

Correctional Services Commissioner Tours DOCS Food Production Center, Touts Executive Budget’s Public Safety, Criminal Justice Proposals

Commissioner Brian Fischer toured the Department of Correctional Services’ Food Production Center in Rome today, highlighting the potential benefits to New York taxpayers and communities from Governor David A. Paterson’s 2009-10 Executive Budget proposal.

Governor Paterson has proposed authorizing DOCS to sell food products at cost to food kitchens, homeless shelters and other charitable organizations, following on the current State budget’s authorization for the sale of DOCS food products to counties for consumption by local jail inmates.

“We have the capacity to produce food not only for local jail inmates but for needy New Yorkers, all at no cost to State taxpayers,” Commissioner Fischer said, noting the Food Production Center has the capability to produce food for up to 80,000 inmates while the State prison population has been declining and is now around 60,000. “We expect that by taking advantage of economies of scale, we will bring down the cost of each meal, benefiting State taxpayers, local property taxpayers and the hungry.”

Commissioner Fischer also explained the benefits of other elements of Governor Paterson’s executive budget, including statutory changes recommended by the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform and proposals to allow DOCS to operate the State prison system more efficiently and effectively.

So far, 12 counties have signed contracts to purchase “Cook-Chill” food products from DOCS’ Food Production Center: Alleghany, Chenango, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Livingston, Madison, Oneida, Schenectady, Warren, Washington and Wayne. Additional contracts with Genesee and Chautauqua counties are awaiting approval from the State Comptroller’s Office.

Like participating counties, charitable organizations would buy food products at cost, so there would be no expense for State taxpayers. Increased production is expected to save money on a per meal basis through economies of scale, which should lower maintenance costs on machinery and reduce production costs.

The Cook-Chill process involves chilling food products immediately after their preparation to ensure freshness, then shipping the products in large, sealed plastic bags for easy reheating.

The Food Production Center occupies 47,000 square feet over two stories on the grounds of Oneida Correctional Facility, following a 15,000 square-foot expansion in 2006.

There are 29 refrigerated trailers, two unrefrigerated trailers, a box truck and 10 tractors as part of the operation. DOCS saves at least $6.2 million per year compared to the price each correctional facility would pay to produce its own meals and dispose of smaller and more numerous packages.

The center opened in 1992, supplying about 5,000 inmates at the four nearby State prisons. It began feeding inmates at all 70 State correctional institutions in October 2003. The center now produces Cook-Chill and processed food items, including individual cups of juice and salads, for about 60,000 State inmates at an approximate daily cost of $2.49 per inmate. The center also produces food for about 1,900 local jail inmates in the 12 participating counties. Oneida County, the first county to enter into a contract with the State to purchase Cook-Chill food products, feeds its inmates at a cost of $3.12 per inmate per day and has estimated its arrangement with DOCS saves its local property taxpayers about $40,000 per year.

Approximately 140 inmates work two shifts at the center, from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from noon to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. The inmates earn 38 cents to 65 cents per hour. Each inmate must be cleared to work outside a correctional facility. The center, which has been accredited six straight times by the American Correctional Association, also employs 47 DOCS staff members, who are involved with cooking, storage and distribution of products.

The 2009-10 Executive Budget includes a provision authorizing DOCS to sell Cook-Chill food products at cost to charitable organizations, which could include soup kitchens, shelters and food pantries. Counties select individual food products from DOCS’ menu. The same would be true for charitable organizations if the Legislature enacts the provision.

The State estimates DOCS’ Food Production Center can assist participating counties in achieving a daily food cost in the neighborhood of $3. That’s about $2 less than participating counties would pay otherwise.

To supplement the center, DOCS procures and/or processes food for religious holidays and inmate special events.

An inspector from the United States Department of Agriculture is on hand full-time to ensure compliance with federal food regulations.

The Center also produces Orthodox Union-certified products under Rabbinical supervision for Jewish inmates who keep Kosher.

The 2009-10 Executive Budget also recommends expanding eligibility for DOCS’ successful and cost-saving Shock Incarceration program, instituting graduated sanctions for minor and technical parole violators as an appropriate, sensible and cost-saving alternative to a mandatory return to prison, and creating a limited time credit allowance for some violent offenders who have good behavioral records during incarceration and who complete enhanced program participation requirements. These proposals build on more than two decades of statutory changes by the State Legislature aimed at providing incentives for motivated inmates to better prepare for their return to society and for keeping prisons safe.

Additionally, the Executive Budget authorizes DOCS to close correctional camps and selected annexes to reflect a 15 percent drop in the inmate population over the last decade. The budget proposal would also delay an expensive 2008 State law requiring additional facilities for inmates with serious mental illness to allow DOCS to evaluate the effectiveness and adequacy of the new and expanded services it has launched for those inmates in the last 22 months.