Altona Correctional Facility
|CLINTON HUB - NY DOC New York State Prisons & Institutions located in the CLINTON HUB - Chateaugay, Altona, Bare Hill, Franklin, Lyon Mt., Clinton, Gabriels, Adirondack, Upstate.
10-06-2004, 08:47 PM
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Altona Correctional Facility
Altona Correctional Facility
555 Devils Den Road
Altona, New York 12910
(518) 236-7841 (Clinton County)
they start processing at 6 am at 8:30 am they take groups of 5 at a time. they just got a new metal detector and your bra will go off. visits are also outside as well. very laid back. no problems at all. very friendly also.
Visitation Hours: visits are okay they start processing at 6;30 am and your visit starts at 8am its over at 2;30 pm. The co's there are okay just as long as your not going overboard you know. But you can't go outside -Its very nice. There is a play area for the kids, coffee, soda and cocoa machines (real coffee and cocoa not the crap most vending machines have). when you get there you go to the processing center where they have cereal, toast, coffee. if you have a package they take it right there and mark everything down and weigh it. the c.o will give you a key to put anything in the locker that you can not take with you such as cell phones etc. at 7:30 they will send you over where you sign in and go thru the metal detector. they were all very nice. in the visiting room the tables are pretty small but really nice. they have chess, checkers, scrabble and other ard games. the backdrop for the pictures when i was there was a beautiful winter scene. it was so relaxed. it wasnt over crowded and in the 3 wks i went there for visits i never got booted out because of too many people.(davesgirl4eva )
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The story of Altona can best be told within its relationship with the local North Country community. Where staff once roamed the halls and obtained their education, inmates now walk the identical corridors for the same purpose. It is one of many facilities in the state to find use as a prison after concluding its primary mission. But the secure perimeter and "truck trap" shown above next to the school documents the differences between yesteryear and today.
What is now the medium-security correctional facility that opened in 1983 was once an important and integral part of the close-knit Altona community.
The program building at the facility was once Altona Central High School. All of the children in Altona went from kindergarten through high school in its halls from 1938 to 1970; that's when Altona and two other school districts decided to consolidate in an effort to save taxpayers dollars and improve efficiency. The grade school remained open unti11981.
Not surprisingly, a good number of current and past Altona staffers graduated from the high school or attended the grade school there. Thus, the building which is still in use and the surrounding grounds hold a special place in the hearts of Altona's local residents.
It's rather easy to spot those employees who went to school at either the high school or grade school: they're the ones who will not walk across the gymnasium floor. All students were taught to walk around the edge of the gym; if not, Superintendent Ralph Pombrio, who held the post from 1937 through 1961, would visit the offending student with his "discipline board," not a pleasant device. The gym was only to be walked on when one was wearing sneakers and for sanctioned events.
Old habits are indeed tough to break.
Different mission in a bygone era
Altona is located high up in northern New York, situated some seven miles from the Canadian border in Clinton County, a region known for its notorious and lengthy winters. It has the capacity to house 740 inmates in dormitories.
Construction on the original school building began in 1935 and was completed in 1937; the cost was $225,000. The red brick structure measured 269 feet in length and 145 feet in width. The original grounds comprised 28 acres. The school's colors were blue and gold and its mascot was the "Bombers. " Its first high school graduation was in 1939 and during its storied 32-year tenure, the school knew only two principals: Mr. Pombrio and William Slocum, who held the post from 1961 through 1970.
One member of the community recently imparted that students used to unlock the school windows on Fridays and would return later to spend the weekends playing basketball in the gym. Local lore also has it that students occasionally would "borrow" the school's Chevy pick-up truck on weekends for lo- cal jaunts.
The students indeed had a little devil inside of them. There was the time one particular student, who currently is an Altona employee who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, decided to ride the school's piano down the hallway. Un- fortunately, the piano flipped over.
It was a little out of tune after that.
There used to be a go-cart track around the school, the local philosophy being "might as well get some use out of the grounds." The basement -which today houses a chapel, vocatioonal food services class, a maintenance shop and a storage area- used to be dirt. There were hunter safety courses taught in the basement and the local residents actually practiced shooting their rifles and shotguns there.
Residents today still laugh about when the facility first opened as a minimum-security prison in 1983. Since there was no fence, an imaginary line was drawn that the inmates could not go over. They'd get precariously close to the line, however, when playing softball. One day a well-hit ball ventured to the limits of the imaginary line and an inmate running quickly to- ward it came face-to-face with a popular North Country resident: a black bear. Few inmates went anywhere near the imaginary line after that.
The Department steps in
After the grade school students moved on to Ellenburg in 1981, the building sat vacant. Then, on February 10, 1983, the Plattsburgh Press Republican confirmed lingering rumors and reported that the state would pay the town $623,000 for the school in order to locate a prison on the grounds. The facility would boast an annual budget of$7 .5 million and an additional $12 million would be spent on new construction and renovations. However, the law required a referendum vote for this to happen. On April 27, 1983, residents from Altona, Ellenburg, Lyon Mountain and Churubusco approved the sale in a land- slide 240 to 21 vote.
On April 15, 1983, Altona officially opened as a minimum- security facility, with 73 employees and 23 inmates. By May 4, there were 141 inmates. At the time, a total of 28,675 inmates were incarcerated in 39 state prisons.
Right from the start, Altona was accepted and became part of the local tapestry. On July 17, 1983, Superintendent William Donahue -himself a local resident, like all the other members of the facility's original Executive Team -was named Grand Marshall at Altona'ss "Old Home Days" Parade. At the same time, inmate community service crews were out repairing town buildings, cleaning parks and local cemeteries and assisting in many other community projects.
On August 12, 1983, Phase II expansion construction started. Altona was the first facility in the state to have a campus-style setting with open dormitories. Original prototype buildings were constructed here, and adjustments made to future correctional facility "cookie cutter" buildings, using Altona buildings as a model. Additional construction occurred in 1984,1986, 1989,1990 and 1991.
Altona once offered a successful Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment (ASAT) program but lost that designation to Chateaugay when that facility opened in 1990. However, in September of 1999, Altona luckily was awarded federal funds to conduct a Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) Program for those inmates identified as having problems with alcohol and/or substance abuse. The program was set up in two dormitories housing 120 inmates. Staff are comprised of one RSAT counselor, two RSAT program assistants and one keyboard specialist.
All 120 inmates are assigned to RSAT classes one module each day, Monday through Friday. In addition to classes they attend community meetings (similar to Network community meetings), house meetings and participate in a hierarchy house maintenance program. Inmates are required to attend a mini- mum of six months of programming, more if it's deemed necessary. They must learn nine separate competencies, like under- standing the dynamics of addiction and signs of relapse, as out- lined in the ASAT manual.
The highly successful program has evolved for the better since 1999. It now includes a complete set of house living rules, and thought-provoking, positive and reinforcing slogans are painted on the dorm walls. In an RSAT dorm, inmates are expected to participate in the community and they are held responsible and accountable for their behavior. Those who fail to participate at an acceptable level in the eyes of their peers or staff may receive learning experiences to correct their behavior and steer them back on the right track. Standards are high and strict, and are expected to be upheld on a regular basis.
While Altona has been relatively quiet and low-key over the years, that wasn't the case on June 16, 1986. A 7:07 p.m. entry in the watch commander's book reads, "Tornado hit Administration Building."
The roof was blown off a good portion of the building, according to Unusual Incident #42. Staff were called in to move inmate records and guidance files to a portion of the building that was not damaged. The log goes on to say, "Extensive damage to Administration Building, no other buildings affected." All telephones were out and a Correction Officer had to be dispatched to the nearby home of a fellow employee to alert Central office.
Within a matter of minutes, backup was on the way from nearby Clinton, the maintenance supervisor had evaluated the damage and directed emergency repairs, emergency communication was set up, members of the Executive Team were on their way in and Deputy Commissioner Peter Lacy was en route to the scene.
By 7:50 p.m., the log read, "Situation improved. Emergency roof repair being done by facility maintenance crew and Correction Officers." By 8:30 p.m., all power was restored. Meanwhile, much of the original roof lay crumbled on the blacktop in front of the Administration Building.
A true community spirit
Just as the community spirit embrace Altona, Altona embraced the community.
Altona offers inmate outdoor work assignments in supervised community service programs. Projects include snow and debris removal, church repairs and ball-field assistance for municipal and non-profit organizations. If not for DOCS, many of these projects would not otherwise be completed.
And at times, the assistance of Altona's community service crews has been nothing short of life-saving.
For instance, take January 7, 1998. On that day, one of the greatest natural disasters in the history of the North Country struck the region: the deadly Ice Storm of 1998.
The day the storm hit, DOCS began housing and feeding North Country senior citizens and others who lost their power as a result of the devastating storm. At Altona, the QWL Building was converted into emergency housing, and more than 20 people stayed there the first night of the storm. Afterwards, six to eight people stayed overnight for five consecutive days.
Community service crews also were dispatched from Altona and other state prisons to clean storm damage. And from modest but lifesaving roots established that first day, Altona and the neighboring facilities provided immense and multi-faceted support over the coming weeks.
The efforts of the Department, Altona staff and inmates plus others were substantial and swift:
* Displaced residents and emergency workers were housed and fed at Altona and six other area prisons.
* More than 400,000 meals were prepared for and distributed to the needy.
* In the two weeks following the storm, 952 supervising Correction Officers and 8,893 work crew inmates logged more than 68,000 hours helping alleviate storm is helping to reconstruct damage.
* Necessities provided to local residents included blankets, cots, mattresses, emergency auxiliary generators, toiletries, clothing and potable water, as well as fuel for emergency vehicles, and uniform cleaning services for emergency personnel.
Four Altona crews continued working to clear the damage in February and then were able to take a needed and well-deserved break- but not for long.
On March 28, 1998, the wrath of El Nino hit in the form of torrential and sustained rain. The waters of the Great Chazy River overflowed their banks and flooded much of the area just north of Altona. Inmate community service crews were sent to the Joe Woods Road and to Lake Roxanne, Ellenburg, to fill and position sand bags. Equipment also was sent out to help break up Ice Jams.
The Watch Commander's log read: "Power outage caused by lightning strikes in the village. Generators came on and off approximately five times and then finally off. Facility without power for approximately an hour. Phones out, not completely functional."
In June of 1998, the Great Chazy River overflowed again, and Altona community service crews went back to their sand- bagging chores.
Then there was the Ganienkeh Incident. On March 30, 1990, a Life-Flight helicopter was shot down while flying over the Ganienkeh Reservation, just to the south and west of Altona. This turned into a more serious incident when the Native Americans of Ganienkeh blockaded the main thoroughfare through Altona, Route 190, which is also known as Military Turnpike. They also blockaded Devils Den Road, the road on which Altona is located. The situation became very tense between the Division of State Police, who were having their meals provided by Altona, and the heavily armed Ganienkehs. The standoff continued for three days until it was finally resolved.
Luckily, Altona's frequent dealings with the community aren't confined to disasters and other similar incidents.
In October of 1988, Altona joined with area prisons to participate in a gleaning project. Over the years the inmates have harvested tons of vegetables and fruits from local farms after the farmers have completed their own harvests.
The food is turned over to food pantries and soup kitchens in the area for distribution to needy individuals and their families.
Altona also has a vegetable garden just outside the facility and all of that food also is turned over to area officials for distribution to the needy. Literally millions of pounds of food are gleaned each year from the inmates working out of the facilities in the Clinton hub. An Altona community service crew also is involved in transferring food from truck to truck for distribution.
Since the fall of 1988 Altona staff, including retired Vocational Educational Supervisor Jean Schneider and Vocational Building Maintenance Instructor Randy Carter, have teamed up with Clinton Vocational Instructor John Neveau to have inmates make toys for needy Clinton County youths during the holiday season. These staff members provide much of their personal time to meet with community members from throughout Clinton County to bring happiness to as many indigent children as they can reach.
Typically, the toys made in the Altona and Clinton vocational shops include doll cradles, wooden toy trucks, doll- houses, rocking horses, tables and chairs, doll high chairs, doll carriages, toy wagons, fixed-up bicycles and other assorted items.
"The inmates really look forward to this project every year," commented Instructor Carter. "They find it deeply rewarding and know that they are helping children who might not other- wise receive toys during the holiday season. The students find the joy of the holiday season they might otherwise miss because of their separation from the families."
Alice Heckard, chairwoman of the Clinton County Christmas Bureau, reports that the bureau delivered food baskets, clothing, toys and books to over 1,100 needy Clinton County families just before Christmas last year. Over $100,000 in monetary donations and goods were distributed by this dedicated group of volunteers.
"Every contribution goes to the indigent families," said Instructor Carter. "No one makes any profit."
Every year, staff and inmates at Altona and at all the other prisons throughout the state participate in national Make a Difference Day activities to assist the needy. Last year, employees at Altona sponsored a breakfast for dozens of area senior citizens, donated $517 and supplies to an area domestic violence shelter and held a food drive to benefit a local food pantry. Employees and inmates also raised funds to assist the survivors of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
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Last edited by Manzanita; 08-02-2005 at 05:15 PM..
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