Coxsackie Correctional Facility
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10-13-2004, 08:21 PM
home since 8/06
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: New York
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Coxsackie Correctional Facility
Coxsackie Correctional Facility
West Coxsackie, New York 12051-0200
Box 999, Zip 12051-0999
Meeting the needs of younger offenders
There is no Family Reunion Program here...
thanks to Anne (haswtch!!!)
Visits are from 9 til 3 every day- weekend visits alternate according to first letter of last name (one week, A-L inmates get Sunday, the next it is Saturday, and so on.) You can bring him all the standard package stuff (check the NYS list.) The COs are mostly not too awful to the visitors, if you're OK to them they'll be OK back.
On weekends, you have to go into this l;ittle modular building to fill out your visitors pass, on weekdays you just wait in this little glass hut that looks exactly like a bus stop for them to call you to the gate. The visiting room is shabby, but there is a corner for kids and assorted games, and predictably icky vending machine food.
My guy is 37 and therefore the programming there is extremely limited from his point of view. Often new guys seem to get assigned to the mess hall at first. The atmosphere in the dorms and yard is pretty nasty, I'm sorry to say. If one is in a cell there is a lot of lockdown time. If your son needs a GED by any chance, I have been told the teacher is nice (and it was a former inmate who told me that.)
Enforcement of the rules (like any prison) varies by which CO is in which mood on any given day. My angel has had no physical fights with anybody- some guys tried to "test" him but he just kept his verbal dignity and did not let them get to him and it passed. He describes it as a gigantic chicken-yard full of roosters trying to out-peck each other.
In short, it is pretty much a dump (sorry) with a nasty reputation among prisons, but we're surviving and so will you.
As you drive the 2 miles up 9W from I-87 Thruway to the prison, you drive through the Coxsackie "metropolis"--there are a Grand Union, a bank, a subway and a couple dollar stores. There is a Red Carpet Inn, A Budget Inn and A Best wEstern near the exit.
The prison is on the left. Can't miss it--you will pass an entrance to Greene CF first. You pull in a long drive. You can park in either lot. Then go to the center where the gate is in the fence and ring the bell ( I am not kidding) they will ask you what you are there for--say visit--if they are not processing another visitor, they will open the fence and let you in--you just walk straight ahead. If you have to wait you go to the bus shelter looking thing--they call you from there. On weekends-you go to the little building outside the gate.
When you enter you fill out your slip. They give you a locker key to put your stuff in (FREE-no quarter needed!). Then you go through the metal detector. Assuming you pass,stamp your hand, give you your slip and open the gates. You go through the second set of gates and enter the visiting room on your right (big sign)--go to the deak on your right and give the CO your slip. He will assign you a table. Inmate must sit in the Blue chair.
The visiting room is not great but it is tables rather than a counter. There is a kids corner and it was operative the day I went and they had cards and games. The vending machines are the usual. There appears to be an outside visiting area too.
RE: the prison: not a TV prison--although recently rewired and supposedly there will be a vote on this soon. Can smoke in cells but must know the CO's some are cigarette nazis per the COs. They have their own heaters and windows in their cell. No bars-doors with slots. Will post house specific package rules when received.
COs were fine to me. Again. said it was my first visit there and they helped me.
When Attica opened in 1931, it was hailed as "the last word in modern prison construction." It wasn't. Almost immediately, New York began work on three more institutions which, in appearance and purpose, represented an about-face from the massive and super-secure new prison in Attica. The new facilities - Coxsackie, Wallkill and Woodbourne - were constructed without walls and were designed to look more like schools than prisons.
Coxsackie would specialize in the system's youngest inmates - young men between their 16th and 19th birthdays. Over the years, the age limit was raised to 21, was relaxed and eventually eliminated entirely. Nevertheless, Coxsackie retains its 66-year-long identification as a youth facility. Today, a fifth to a quarter of Coxsackie's 1,000 inmates are under 21, as opposed to a system-wide figure of only 5 percent; nearly two-thirds are under 30, as opposed to one-third system-wide.
Randall's Island moves upriver
Although at Coxsackie only since 1935, the institution program has a continuous history dating back to the early 19th century. It was the brainchild of Thomas Eddy, who in 1797 had established, and proceeded to manage, New York's first state prison (Newgate, in Greenwich Village). He later turned his attention to the growing problem of street urchins and juvenile crime, inducing prominent citizens to form a Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents.
After studying existing approaches to the problem, the society determined to establish a "house of refuge" that would separate children from the adult justice system. On January 1,1825, with a charter and state funding, the House of Refuge opened its doors to receive "nine ragged children" as its first wards.
Initially for children from New York City, the House of Refuge's jurisdiction was extended the next year to include all counties of the state. It was empowered to receive children "taken up as vagrants, or convicted of criminal offenses" and considered as 'proper objects of reformation."
The asylum's managers would assume and exercise parental authority. Such authority included the right to indenture the children's services to private citizens. Boys were "bound out" as apprentices to farmers, tailors and shoemakers, blacksmiths, masons, carpenters and carriage makers, tanners, bakers, hatters and printers. Several were bound out on whaling ships. Girls were usually apprenticed to "housewifery" (domestic service).
After relocating several times, the House of Refuge moved in 1854 to newly constructed quarters on Randall's Island on the East River. Here it remained until the 1930's, when it was broken up and moved upstate. One consideration, surely, was the suitability of Randall's Island - about equidistant from Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens - as the fulcrum for a "Triborough Bridge." Another factor was the deteriorating condition of the institution's ornate and old-fashioned buildings.
But the chief reason for the move was that the embrace of the old House of Refuge was too broad. Originally, it took children under the age of 16. Girls had been removed in 1905 to a new institution in Hudson (now a DOCS facility), but in 1913 Randall's jurisdiction was enlarged to include 16- and 17-year olds, some with felony convictions, who had no place in an institution alongside 12-year old truants.
A reorganization plan was developed to separate the inmates into two groups. The younger inmates, aged 12 through 15, would be sent to a new juvenile facility in Warwick, Orange County, to be administered by the Department of Social Welfare (this site is now Mid-Orange). The older boys would be housed in a new facility in Greene County, to be operated by the Department of Correction (DOC).
The Warwick boys' facility opened on July 1,1932. Effective the same date, Randall's Island was placed under the DOC. During that year, the DOC purchased a 750-acre site in the village of West Coxsackie (an Indian word meaning "hoot of an owl"), two miles west of the Hudson River and 23 miles south of Albany for $84,135. Construction was completed in three years.
The first group of inmates was brought up from Randall's on March 26, 1935. Relocation activities continued through May as furnishing, equipment and the rest of the inmates were brought by car, bus and truck. Many of the House of Refuge employees also made the move, including Superintendent Frederick C. Helbing. Helbing is said to have begun his corrections career as an inmate, whose sentence was commuted when he saved the life of a woman whose hair was caught in a piece of heavy machinery. His career as an employee began in 1899, when he was appointed a messenger at the salary of $120 a year. He later became a guard, then a parole officer and Superintendent in 1928, retiring in 1941.
A new prison architecture
Until a razor-ribbon fence was erected about 1981, officials sometimes had to chase away motorists who saw no reason not to park and stroll the well-maintained and inviting grounds. Neither the name ("New York State Vocational Institution") nor its appearance gave a clue as to the true nature of the place. It looked - by design - like a prep school. A quarter-mile long, tree-lined boulevard divided by a grassy mall led to a three-story administration building with a bell-tower and a weather vane. To the sides and behind the administration building were ivy-covered red brick buildings, with white trim.
In near-perfect symmetry, Coxsackie's principal buildings are built around a square courtyard. The administration and food service buildings are on the west and east sides, while two cellblocks on the south look across at two identical structures on the north. Behind the food service building is a long vocational training building with saw-tooth windows on the roof.
Depression-era cash problems led to delays in realizing the architect's plans. Only two of the four cellblocks were fitted out with cells. For years, the two south-side blocks (now called E & F)served as dormitories. Cells were finally installed, one floor at a time, between 1960 and 1962.
Erection of the planned two-story school-house and chapel off he north corridor and a gymnasium on the opposite side was postponed until 1940. That year also saw the architectural balance upset by adding two new cellblocks as extensions of the north-side blocks. The Vocational Institution now had six cellblocks, each with three floors, with 42 cells to a floor There were also 44 "quarantine" cells in the administration building (initially used for reception and orientation, and used today for inmates awaiting transfer to other facilities).
The 1940 additions brought Coxsackie's capacity to 800. This was generally exceeded by cramming more beds into the south-side blocks in the years before cells were installed. Capacity jumped in 1982, when two long, corrugated metal buildings were surplused from the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games and &aced alongside the north-side cell-blocks as dormitory housing for 106 inmates. Another dorm was created in one of the cell-block day rooms, and the facility has a small number of double-bunks.
These additions brought Coxsackie - originally designed for 500 - to its current capacity of just over 1,000 inmates.
The new vocational institution received males 16 through 18 years old convicted of misdemeanors and felonies, except those punishable by death or life imprisonment. The population usually included a small number of returned parole violators who exceeded the age limit.
By prison system standards, the inmates were minor offenders. In the first years, inmates were committed for such offenses as "malicious mischief," "ungovernable," "vagrancy" and "possession of a stink bomb." Tioga the Vocational Institution period (through 1970), only 10 to 20 percent of population were felons. The majority were sentenced as misdemeanants, wayward minors and youthful offenders, and most of the young men were car thieves and burglars. Time served ranged from a year to a year and a half.
Since the re-designation of the Vocational Institution as a standard correctional] facility in 1970, Coxsackie's population has consisted of felons only. Transfer criteria developed in the 1970's retained Coxsackie's youth tradition, but permitted exceptions for inmates above age 21 in selected cases. By 1990, as a result of system-wide population pressures, more than half of Coxsackie's inmates were 21 and over Nevertheless, Coxsackie continues as a youth facility and is the first choice for placement of under-21 males classified at the "maximum-BE" security level.
School and work
True to its name and appearance, the new Vocational Institution considered its a teaching facility. The entire program, including work assignments, was driven by a commitment to trade instruction. Teachers were employed, in addition to vocational instructors, but Coxsackie did not have a general education program until 1945, when the school was certified by the state Education Department.
Before then, "the so-called academic subjects" were not taught unless directly related and necessary to trade mastery; geometry, for example, was taught in the drafting class and grammar and punctuation in the print shop. Non-educational personnel - Correction Officers and civilians supervising inmates in the kitchen, laundry, power plant and storehouse - thought of themselves as instructors.
Even the manager of Coxsackie's large farm said his duties as a teacher took precedence over production, a rather surprising view in that he was responsible for supplying milk, fruit and vegetables, poultry products and pork to Coxsackie's kitchen and to other state institutions.
Education continues to be stressed at Coxsackie. At present, approximately 350 of the facility's 1,000 inmates are enrolled in the academic program, and more than 200 are students in the eight vocational training courses. The facility also offers a residential AS program, treating 100 inmates at a time, and a Transitional Services Program providing services in job search skills, Aggression Replacement Training (ART), money management, domestic violence and other problematic issues that inmates will have to deal with on their release.
Most inmates also have a work 'assignment, either in the kitchen, the laundry, in housekeeping and groundwork or assisting maintenance and program staff. tin inmates are currently assigned to a vocational food service program in the employees' cafeteria attached to the new medical building.
Eighty-five inmates are employed in the Coreraft (correctional industries) program, which got its start in the late 1970's with a contract to manufacture snow-fences for the Lake Placid Olympic Winter Games. After the games, Coreraft continued at Coxsackie, introducing an upholstery shop and chair manufacture. By the mid-90's, orders for chairs had begun to slip. Meanwhile, the Corcraft tailor shop at Clinton, with a new contract for Correction Officers' uniforms, was working overtime. Coxsackie was asked to retool, retrain and make the radical switch from chair production to garment manufacture.
In 1996, the shop began producing boxer shorts, handkerchiefs, laundry bags, sheets and pillow cases, pajamas and lab coats; two specialty items, security smocks (for suicidal patients) and observation cell floor pads, are designed for forensic hospital settings. Earlier this year, with automated machinery from Czechoslovakia, socks were added to the shop's catalogue. The energetic and mesmerizing machines look like something out of Willie Worika's chocolate factory: quivering dials and gauges at the front monitor a mad whirl of threads, spools and needles, as 260 dozen pairs of socks a day shoot out the back end.
To deal with misbehavior and rules infractions, the Vocational Institution administered a disciplinary "court" headed by the Deputy superintendent. The court approached its duties in the spirit of "in loco parentis" (the inmates were minors), considering disciplinary action "as a corrective rather than as a punitive measure.
Punishment for most misbehavior took the form of loss of recreation or other privileges. For serious or persistent violations, there was a mild form of keeplock; inmates were segregated in a designated housing division but let out of their cells for five hours a day for janitorial duties and exercise. Continuing misbehavior was met with full-fledged keeplock in the quarantine division.
Into the 1960's, officials downplayed disciplinary problems. In 1963, a new Superintendent, Glenn M. Kendall, called the Commissioner's attention to a disturbing practice that negatively impacted the facility's disciplinary and treatment programs. The inmates grouped themselves into cliques or gangs, usually by race, and took over as their own certain territories of the yards and recreation rooms. The benches, comers and other territorial lines - "invisible but there" -were well-known and aggressively defended. Senior employees claimed the practice was firmly entrenched, probably brought from Randall's Island almost 30 years earlier.
The traditional means for breaking up such groups was transfer, but Coxsackie could not fully use this technique because most of its inmates were non-felons and could not legally be sent to any other institutions operated by the Department. Instead, Kendall instituted a system of rotating housing divisions between the center yard and the north yard (created in 1940 by sealing off and blacktopping the space between the north cell- blocks). He recommended that funds be appropriated to create additional yards.
A small yard was created between the south-side cell-blocks in 1964; a similar yard was later created next to the gymnasium. Kendall also tried to move inmates around among the housing divisions so as to disrupt "ownership" of recreation room tables.
The makeup of Coxsackie's population was changing. After WWII, the petty property offenders began to be displaced by more violent offenders. Soon after in the late 1950's, the new youth conservation camps opened and were authorized to hand-pick their inmates from Elmira and Coxsackie. Not without protest, Coxsackie lost many of its more responsible and stable inmates. A decade later, when the state correctional system was reorganized, Coxsackie began to receive older inmates.
With the cumulative changes, disciplinary problems escalated. On two separate occasions in 1972, tear gas was used to quell disturbances. In 1977, inmates staged a mini-riot and took three hostages. Ten years later, they gained control of the SHU and took five Officers hostage.
In the early years, a single 42-cell division (usually the third floor of one of the north-side blocks) was sufficient as disciplinary housing. By 1973, two divisions Were appropriated to this purpose. In 1982, a 32-cell Special housing Unit was constructed on the south side of the property. Still later, all of the two south-side cell-blocks (E & F), holding 252 inmates, were designated for keeplock inmates. The south-side yards - built specifically to avoid disciplinary problems - were now equipped with exercise pens for inmates in disciplinary status.
But the pendulum has swung. In the last yean unusual incident reports have dropped by over 20 percent. From 480 in 1998, the number of keeplocks has been reduced to 109. The improved behavior is in part attributable to the presence of older inmates, whose maturity acts as a brake on their younger peers' impulsivity. Another significant factor is a greater willingness on the part of the Greene County District Attorney's Office to prosecute assaults and other crimes committed by inmates.
System-wide improvements, such as the construction of S-Blocks at Greene and other facilities, have also contributed to a safer facility.
DOCS' first hospice program
Interestingly, it is this youth facility that is home to DOGS first and, to date, only hospice program. The hospice unit offers humane care in a hospital setting to an average of 10 terminally ill inmates in the last six months of their lives. The hospice unit begun in 1997 as a pilot project, is staffed by an interdisciplinary team including physicians and nurses, a community hospice consultant, dietary and physical therapy personnel, social workers and clergy.
Hospice inmates are housed in Coxsackie's 60-bed Regional Medical Unit (RMU) for chronic, sub-acute and long-term patients who warrant 24-hour skilled nursing care. The RMU is contained in a new medical building opened in 1996. In addition to its inpatient units, the RMU also operates an out-patient clinic for inmates from all facilities in the Great Meadow, Clinton and Sullivan hubs. Utilizing modem technology including radiology, MW, ultrasonography and telemedicine, the clinic offers services in such areas as cardiology, neurology, ophthalmology, dentistry, neuro- and general surgery, urology, physical therapy, speech therapy, oncology and hematology.
A new Coxsackie
Though Coxsackie in 2001 retains much of the spirit and philosophy of the program established in 1935, it is in many respects a new institution. Coxsackie opened as a reformatory whose 500 adolescent inmates were occupied in vocational training and farming. Today, it is a general confinement facility with 1,000 inmates, most of them over 21. The program still emphasizes education, but has been broadened by the addition of strong ASAT and counseling components.
Expansive fields and pastures still surround the institution, but are no longer farmed by Coxsackie inmates; the farm was transferred to Greene, a medium-security facility constructed next door in 1984.
For a number of years, the disciplinary problems that surfaced at the end of the reformatory period continued to rise, but the tide has turned. Staff and inmate morale are much improved over the last decade.
And Coxsackie today looks more like the prison it is than a prep school. A security fence was erected 20 years ago and upgraded 10 years ago. In 1986, steel screens were placed over the cell windows, curtailing the practice of "fishing" with mesh swag-bags dangled outside the cells. Some inmates passed contraband this way. Others, using bread for bait, fished for birds and chipmunks. Once, an inmate reeled in a skunk.
The ivy, where inmates used to stash contraband, has been stripped from the walls. The bell-tower and weather vane still stand above the administration building. The bell, made in 1860, was probably used at Randall's Island, perhaps to signal meal times or chapel hour. It never rang at Coxsackie, however, and was removed from the tower about five years ago. Today, it is displayed outside the front entrance as a memorial to the institution's long and continuing tradition of enlightened penology.
I no longer work for PTO and do not have updated information to share
please go to the NY Forum for help from current staff and members!
Good Luck to you!
Last edited by Manzanita; 04-01-2006 at 08:49 PM..
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03-25-2006, 11:26 AM
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Coxsackie Visiting Tips
thought about this yesterday haven't addded little tips in a while:
1. The blue chair is where the inmate must sit.
2. If you sit near the windows in the main room in the AM-you will get "sunned" out about 10-very annoying.
3. They have games and cards as well as pencils and paper at the desk.
4. Take the brown paper towels with you to the restrooms-none in there and the dryer rarely works.
5. Check for TP BEFORE you go! People constantly move it to the sink area to dry their hands and you are left --well, you know how you are left.
6. The change machine DOES NOT TAKE 20's at this facility. So bring change or at least smaller bills-gave every cent I had yesterday to change someone's 20 for them.
7.Will only let you wear one layer in-ie no sweaters over a shirt. Never had an issue at Great Meadows. NO hoods or Hats.
8. It is usually cold in the room-especially in the morning.
9. Seems like the metal detector is broken a lot here. So you can expect to be hand wanded.
10. They will not let you leave a visit between 2:20 or so and three because it is shift change. The way it is configured, visitors must walk by the timeclocks etc. So they just do not let you out.
11. DURING THE WEEK, MAKE SURE YOU RING THE BELL ON THE GATE WHEN YOU ARRIVE. DON'T ASSUME SOMEONE ALREADY WAITING HAS DONE THIS. IF YOU DO NOT RING, THEY DO NOT KNOW YOU ARE WAITING UNTIL AND IF THEY LOOK AT THE SHELTER. sO RING!
12. Free lockers here-no need to even insert a quarter.
When I was lost--I found PTO. Thank you everyone.
"Pay it forward."
Last edited by Momma Ann; 10-25-2011 at 06:19 AM..
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