Beacon Correctional Facility
|GREEN HAVEN HUB - NY DOCS New York State Prisons & Institutions located inside the GREEN HAVEN HUB - Green Haven, Downstate, Fishkill, Beacon, Taconic, Bedford Hills.
10-16-2004, 02:41 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Beacon Correctional Facility
Beacon Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 780
Beacon, New York 12508-0780
Camp Beacon is on the same road as Fishkill. Each having their own agenda.Beacon is a female minum security Facility. Most consider this the first step towards work release. It is a working facility, so if your loved ones have any disabilities, they probably won't be able to stay here.
As you pass the booth and turn into the facility, the first MAJOR thing that I noticed was that there is no fence around the facility. Gee, imagine that. And it is right next door to Beacon High School, literally.
The facility houses a little over 200 inmates at capacity, so it is rather small. And so is the parking lot for visitors. Since the population is low, the CO's get to know ALL of the inmates individually.
I have been there quite often, and since visiting starts at 8:30, I get there about 8:15. NO waiting to get in. Actually you have to wait in your car until 8:30 to go in. Visitation ends at 3:00.
If you are leaving cash (up to $50) it must be done as you sign in, no later, or tough luck.
Package requirements are the same as the standard allowances.
All of the CO's were friendly, or at least treat us as humans. A completely different atmosphere over all, compared to what I was used to in other facilities.
The visiting area is like others, cafeteria style, with the inmates having seperate colored chairs, facing the CO's.
All the inmates must wear the states green pants in visiting.
The vending machines were the same as usual, with the change machine only accepting bills up to $5.00. Make sure you don't bring 20 dollar bills, it's not easy to find someone else to give you change.
The visiting room, although small, don't usually fill to capacity. Although the buses come on the last weekend of the month. Plan your visits around them.
Right outside the visiting room (outside), they have an area where inmates are allowed to go out and smoke, or just get a breath of fresh air. The scenery is nice.
They have a seperate room, manned by inmate volunteers, for kids.
I noticed that while walking around, there are signs marked "out of bounds". More of a humane way of keeping the inmates where they should be.
I was really suprized at my overall experience at Camp Beacon. As much as it's not a "country Club". It's still a big step above what I've experienced in the past.
Oh, and in case you're wondering. As much as it seems like things are pretty easy going here, I was reminded that this IS a CF, and most rules are still the same.
Even though the inmates are given more freedoms, there is less tolerance to not adhering to the rules.
Basically, it's "screw up once, and you're back to where you came from" No ands, ifs or buts. And that discretion is left up to the CO's.
Oh, before I forget... the ION scanner (drug scanner) IS used here. Be aware that you will be checked if the scanner shows a positive.
Don't know if there's anything that I left out. But you can always ask me any questions that you might have(Kerch)
Beacon, located in the central highlands of the lower Hudson Valley in Dutchess County, is a minimum-security facility for female offenders. The 250 women housed here are engaged in productive activity. Many work outdoors, maintaining parks, minor construction and farming. Off-hours are spent in self-improvement programs designed to improve their chances for non-criminal living after their release. These programs include education, vocational training and treatment for alcohol and substance abuse. They also include programs addressing issues of special importance to women, such as child care and coping with domestic violence.
Although the current program was established only nine years ago, Beacon occupies a site rich in prison history. The Beacon campus is set on land that was farmed by inmates of the famous Matteawan State Hospital, an asylum for the criminally insane established in 1 892. What is now Beacon's main building served in the late 1960's and again in the late 1 970's to train Correction Officers. One of Beacon's buildings was used as a command post during the 1978 manhunt for Robert Garrow, the notorious Adirondack serial killer who escaped and hid out on Beacon's grounds until he was shot to death in a gun battle with Correction Officers and State Police.
The state hospital was phased out in the 1970's and converted to today's Fishkill, a medium-security general confinement facility for men. Beacon lies almost literally in Fishkill's shadow, about a quarter-mile downhill from the massive and turreted old asylum. The adjacent facilities present a startling contrast. While Fishkill's multi-story buildings are enclosed by fences and coils of razor-ribbon wire, Beacon is an open facility presenting the appearance of a small town in the Old West. The administrative offices are in converted horse stables arranged in a nearly circular octagon as though doing double-duty as a stockade against the occasional Indian attack. Livestock graze in an adjoining field with a watering pond, and a pheasant pen abuts the stockade.
Asylum farm and training academy
Like all institutions of its time, Matteawan State Hospital included extensive acreage for farming to feed its residents. Up to 700 acres were devoted to vegetable and fruit cultivation, a dairy farm, a piggery and pasture land for the animals. Barns and other farm buildings were built down the hill from the asylum. These included a tool shed built in 1900, a greenhouse (1919), a large residence hall for male patients and staff assigned to work the farm (1932) and a horse stable (1933).
The Matteawan "colony farm" was closed in the mid-1960's when the director decided that farming was not relevant training for a patient population drawn principally from New York City. ("Relevance" was a '60's rationalization for ditching traditions. College students used it to rid the curriculum of required courses they didn't want to take and the prison system de-emphasized farming. Since then, DOCS has revitalized its agribusiness program.) in 1965, the residence hall (Building 60) was refitted as a training academy for newly hired Correction Officers, the first formal recruit training program operated by DOCS since Pearl Harbor Even after recruit training was relocated to Albany in 1970, Building 60 continued to serve as a training site, either for in-service training of Matteawan and Fishkill personnel or - at such times as capacity expansion overtaxed the new Albany Training Academy - as an auxiliary academy for recruit training.
After 16 years service as a training facility, the still increasing inmate census dictated another change in the use of the old asylum farm residence half. DOCS' Camp Adirondack in Ray Brook was enlarged and converted to a medium-security institution. Additional bed-space was picked up, and the camp program saved to boot, by relocating the program to Beacon.
The announcement in late 1981 that a minimum-security camp would be established on grounds once traipsed by the criminally insane provoked loud hoots of protest from neighbors and local officials. The Dutchess County Legislature unanimously approved a resolution opposing the move, and County Executive Lucille Pattison complained that the speed with which the state intended to move was "cavalier," "distressing" and "annoying." Undeterred, the state proceeded apace. The first busload of 25 inmates from Ray Brook arrived on December 11, 1981 to begin renovating Building 60 and moving furniture in. By Christmas, 100 campmen were residents of the new institution.
For the first two years, Camp Beacon was a one-building operation. Inmate housing, office space, supplies and the kitchen and dining area were all concentrated in Building 60, the two-story brick building erected in 1932 as housing for Matteawan patients and staff assigned to the asylum farm and later used as a training facility. The senior counselor and his secretary were crammed into a basement room not much bigger than a closet; a larger room in the basement served variously as the visiting room, commissary, state shop and Officers' locker room. Over the years, the campmen rendered other structures on the grounds fit for use. The 1919 greenhouse was restored and is now used by the facility horticulture program. Building 57 was also rebuilt. This wooden structure - an octagon enclosing a yard, with an arched entryway under a rotunda topped by a belltower - had been constructed in 1933 as a horse stable, tack room and eight-bay garage. A Beacon inmate drew the conversion plans and Building 57 became the administration building, with storage rooms and maintenance shops in the back.
The renovation of Building 57 freed space in Building 60, allowing a 50 percent increase in the facility population to 150. In 1982, the year after the facility opened, construction began on a new building (Building 1) which now contains quarters for business office staff, the commissary, package room and the visiting room.
Further additions to Camp Beacon came in the late 1980's with the erection of two new barracks-style housing units and two modular program buildings constructed by inmates working for Corcraft (DOCS' industrial production division). One of the new modular buildings (Building 6) contains a multi-faith chapel with donated pews, stained glass windows and an organ; a separate mosque; counselors' and chaplains' offices; a computer classroom, and the ASAT meeting room. The other modular (Building 7) holds the state shop, draft processing and medical services areas and a recreation room in the basement.
Beacon's population had by 1988 reached 282 campmen. The census remained at this figure until 1991 when, with the redesignation of the camp as a women's facility, the capacity was reduced to 222 beds (since increased again to 257).
Campmen make way for women
On February 9, 1991, after more than nine years of operatio as a camp for men, Beacon became a women's facility. Except for a reduction in the number of beds, the hiring of a third counselor and minor physical alterations, there were no changes in the camp program.
Five months later (in July, 1991), the Department reclassified Beacon, eliminating the camp designation and establishing it as a standard minimum-security correctional facility. The redesignation would permit more flexibility in assigning inmates: whereas inmates had to be within two years of parole eligibility to be assigned to a camp, the criterion for a non-camp minimum-security facility is being within three years of eligibility for parole.
As a result, Beacon now holds inmates who do not have out-side clearance. In most respects, however, the reclassification made little difference to the institution program. The female inmates continue to do the work the males did, including facility maintenance and construction, as well as work with chainsaws and other heavy equipment in nearby state parks.
Serving the community: work programs
Despite the fears voiced in 1981, the inmates - male and female - have not once in 19 years disturbed the peace of their neighbors. On the contrary: inmates and staff have rendered valuable service and contributed to the quality of life in the mid-Hudson region. Over the years, inmates have reconstructed and painted hundreds of local churches, fire houses and police stations. They built shelves for a thrift shop oper4ted by the Beacon Community Action Agency. This past spring, they renovated an abandoned camp in Peekskill for use as a YMCA children's summer camp.
In "the jungle" (the old greenhouse), inmates assigned to the vocational horticulture program grow plants and flowers which, in addition to beautifying the Beacon grounds, are regularly donated to schools, nursing homes, psychiatric centers and other DOCS facilities. They also prepare floral arrangements to adorn official Department functions such as awards presentations and the annual Correction on Canvas art show.
A specialty is conservation work. Since the introduction of correctional camps in New York in the late 1950's, an essential feature has been a formal relationship with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Beacon's relationship with DEC has continued even though the facility is no longer designated a camp. Two DEC staff members are assigned full-time to Beacon, instructing and supervising inmate crews working in state parks in Dutchess, Orange and Putnam counties and at the Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center in nearby Wappingers Falls. The inmate DEC crews typically are responsible for erosion control, clearing hiking trails, maintaining buildings, constructing foot-bridges and cutting timber.
Women inmates under the Corcrafi program replaced the windows in Building 60 and made repairs to the roofs on Building 57 and the modular buildings. Recently, a crew of inmates spent several weeks going up the hill to Fishkill where they disassembled the facility's old oil-fired burners for conversion to more energy-efficient dual fuel operation; they will later reassemble the boilers after an outside contractor has completed the conversion.
Inmate crews are also at the service of other state agencies. Inmates maintain state housing at the former Harlem Valley State Hospital and two crews are assigned to cleanup on the Thomas A. Dewey Thruway
Beacon's extensive fields are returning to agricultural use. After the asylum farm closed, Green Haven, Greene and Sullivan would sometimes send excess beef cattle here to graze. To better accommodate the cattle, Carry Stevens, Camp Beacon's first superintendent, borrowed a bulldozer from Camp Smith (where Stevens' campmen had done groundswork and renovations), climbed aboard and personally dug out a watering pond - probably a first for the head of a prison work camp. The grazing arrangement was summers-only until last winter (1999-2000), when cows returned full-time for the first time since the 1960's. There are now 35 beef cows in Beacon's pastures, with expectations that they will increase to 100.
Beacon's intensive work focus represents a valuable resource for DOCS and a long list of other governmental and not-for-profit organizations. The work experience can also lead to post-release employment for participating inmates. While there is no tracking system, Beacon staff sometimes hear from, or about, parolees' activities. Conservation crew inmates have found employment as landscapers and on construction crews; one inmate was hired full-time by DEC after her release. Horticulture inmates have landed jobs in the Bronx and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, plant and flower shops, city parks, golf courses, landscaping and interior gardening in malls and office buildings.
Counseling and parenting
The work experience at Beacon is by no means the only way in which inmates are prepared for successful living after release from prison. The facility also employs teachers, counselors and chaplains and calls on a broad body of volunteers all of whom are dedicated to helping the women address their educational, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs. Some of these programs anger management, ASAT and GED, for example - are staples in all facilities; others may be available to men but receive a greater stress in women's institutions.
Women's programming at Beacon made tremendous progress with the arrival in December, 1997, of Susan Schultz as superintendent. Schultz had previously served as deputy superintendent for administration at Bedford Hills (long an international leader in correctional programming for female inmates). She was able to put her experience and contacts with volunteer organizations and women's advocates to work at Beacon. That focus is continuing under Ada Perez, who became superintendent in May.
Beacon's counseling staff consists of a Clinical Social Worker 11, three counselors, one ASAT counselor and a counselor aide. Organized group sessions address issues including anger management, family violence, surviving sexual abuse and money addiction. The staff also conduct individual counseling sessions as time permits.
Many of Beacon's inmates are mothers, and the facility offers a number of programs designed to help the mothers deal with their responsibilities while imprisoned and when released. The visiting area includes an outside playground, with swings, slides and seesaws. Inside, there is a room called the Children's Center with toys and books; the Children's Center is staffed by trained inmate caregivers under the supervision of an officer. This past Christmas, a "Mom and Me" program was initiated, allowing children to spend several days in the Beacon area, visiting with their mothers in the Children's Center and sleeping at a local retreat house. Other new programs are Stories from Mom," in which the inmate mother reads a story onto an audio cassette and mails the book and cassette to her children. Funding for Stories from Mom is by "Kans for Kids," an inmate-run program which raises money by collecting soda cans from the housing units for the deposit, as well as by selling candy, popcorn and mesh bags to other inmates.
Under a program called "Hour Children," volunteers with expertise in the workings of the social service system visit Beacon twice a week to conduct parenting programs and to advise inmates on custody and other legal issues involving their children.
Other volunteers focus on health and sexuality issues. Planned Parenthood visits regularly to discuss sexuality and gynecological issues. Several programs are directed at HIV/AIDS concerns. A staff member works with a quilting group; the activity helps the inmates to relax and encourages talk about AIDS and other sensitive topics. Last year, the group submitted a panel which became part of the National AIDS Memorial Quilt, a gigantic traveling exhibit that takes up entire city blocks and has to be photographed from the air The New York City Commission on Human Rights is also involved in the effort to help inmates cope with HTV, making monthly presentations at the facility.
Assistance to the chaplaincy staff is regularly provided by Kairos, a national prison ministry which conducts programs for male as well as female inmates at several DOCS facilities. Since 1997, a local women's chapter of Kairos has conducted two three-day retreats a year at Beacon. They also help the "Mom and Me" program with housing and transportation arrangements.
Beacon's creative program of work, education and counseling fills the inmates' days while looking ahead to the future. The strenuous physical labor tones bodies, while education and counseling strengthen minds and spirits. Beacon's staff of 116 uniformed and civilian employees pull out all stops in their determination to prepare the inmates for mature, productive and rewarding lives when they leave the facility to return to their home communities.
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; 10-16-2004 at 02:49 PM..
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