State of shock: Moriah opposes closure of municipal institution | Local

MAURY THOMPSON Special for The Post-Star

MORIAH – Todd Gregory, a reading teacher at the Moriah Shock Correctional Facility, which is slated to close in March, did not visit Syracuse on Friday to watch the hometown of the Moriah Vikings play in the Championship game of state high school football.

He saves all his accumulated free time to use if, in fact, the Crown shuts down the facility and he has to travel to another facility, an hour or more away.

“Normally I would take the (game) day off,” he said. “These are all things you need to start to consider.”

Area state lawmakers and local government officials are trying to get a stay of the shutdown, slated for March 10, to give time to assess the feasibility of diversifying the boot camp-like program. as an alternative sentencing option for drug addicts who would otherwise be incarcerated in county jails.

Acting State Corrections Commissioner Anthony Annucci and members of his staff recently met with lawmakers and “discussed ideas to reallocate the facility,” wrote on Friday Matt Janiszewski, press secretary of the facility. Governor Kathy Hochul, in a statement.

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“As Governor Hochul said, she wants to find creative ways to reinvent this facility and is committed to working with local leaders to ensure future plans meet the needs of the community,” he said. he writes.

The degree of success will determine how long Gregory, who worked in the shock camp for 29 years, remains on the state payroll.

He has enough years in the state pension system to retire, but has not quite reached the minimum retirement age.

“I have one more (a year) if I am trucking, but it will be longer if it stays open,” he said.

The impact on the quality of life of employees and on the local economy is among the arguments put forward by Moriah’s supervisor, Tom Scozzafava, in an attempt to keep open the shock camp, which employs around 100 people.

Scozzafava said all around Moriah he could point out new homes that shock camp workers have been building over the past 30 years.

If a 100-employee manufacturer threatened to shut down, the state would do everything in its power to keep it open, he said.

The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said all employees can be transferred to other prisons in the state.

But driving to the nearest facilities, an hour or more in either direction, would be a hardship, said Chris Slattery, who worked as a clerk in the inmate records office for 20 years.

“If it closes, we are traveling,” she said.

There could be a domino effect if senior Moriah Shock employees supplant employees at nearby establishments, such as Washington Correctional Facilities and Great Meadow Correctional Facilities in Comstock, to the south, and the displaced employees had to go to another public facility, Slattery said.

This is the complete opposite of the typical career path of the late 1980s and 1990s, when there was a shortage of correctional officers.

Residents of Essex County would begin working in remote correctional facilities, knowing they could return to Moriah when they accumulated sufficient seniority.

Often, several local correctional officers shared an apartment in the community where they worked and returned with their families on days off, knowing that the arrangement was temporary.

Today, the number of inmates statewide has declined as state sentencing laws have changed.

Moriah Shock is one of six correctional facilities in the state that Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Nov. 8 would be closed in March.

Other facilities slated for closure include: Ogdensburg Correctional Institution, Willard Drug Treatment Campus, Southport Correctional Institution, Downstate Correctional Institution and Rochester Correctional Institution.

State officials say the facilities are no longer needed as the number of inmates across the system has more than halved, from 72,773 at a peak in 1999 to 31,469 in early November.

State officials say the closures will save the state $ 142 million.

In the case of a shock camp, however, those savings are offset, said State MP Carrie Woerner, D-Malta.

In a shock camp, inmates convicted of non-violent crimes go through a rigorous boot camp-like program that includes exercise, education and work experience, in exchange for a shorter sentence. .

The program is based on a triple strategy of teaching self-responsibility, responsibility for others and quality of life.

Participants must be 50 or younger and three years or younger before qualifying for probation.

Judges can also sentence individuals directly to a shock camp.

The typical shock camp inmate spends two years less in the corrections system than if they had served their full sentence in a traditional correctional system, saving $ 100,000 per inmate, Woerner said.

Because graduates from shock camps are less likely to reoffend after being released than those released from traditional facilities, the long-term costs of the system are reduced, she said.

“Just on the dollars and cents, it seems like a really smart program,” Woerner said.

State officials, however, said Moriah Shock only had 74 inmates, or just 25 percent of capacity, as of November 8, North Country Public Radio reported.

Typically, shock camps reduce costs, but those savings depend on a critical mass of inmates sufficient to cover the costs of running an institution, according to a 1994 Federal Justice Department report on the Detainee Program. New York shock camps.

Woerner supports a proposal by State Senator Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, and Assembly Member Matt Simpson, R-Horicon, to keep it open and diversify it to offer a similar alternative sentencing program for drug addicts who would otherwise be incarcerated in the county. prisons.

Woerner said that in addition to opening the program to county inmates, she suggested that the state change its process to offer the program to non-violent state inmates.

Currently, the program is offered when inmates first enter the system, six months or more before they are eligible for the shock camp program. Many inmates are anxious at this point and may not fully think about the option.

If the state offered the program a second time, at the point of eligibility, more inmates could accept the shock camp option, she said.

“I wrote to the governor and shared my observations with him, and asked him to reconsider and keep it open,” Woerner said.

Woerner said she made a habit of visiting one of the state’s correctional facilities every year to be aware of what was going on in the system.

This year in October, she visited Moriah Shock because she was curious that it was the only state correctional facility that did not have a fence, but in over 30 years, there is no had only one escape.

She spent about five hours at the camp, talking with many staff and about two dozen inmates.

Woerner said Moriah Shock did not have the atmosphere of “discouragement” and “tension” she felt when she visited other correctional facilities.

“It’s a place where you feel like people are actively rehabilitating themselves. They actually get the skills they need, ”she said.

“Seeing that (hopeful) look in their eyes was just an amazing experience,” said Simpson, who also toured the facility.

“The community, we don’t even think of it as a ‘prison’ because it’s so far from that definition,” Scozzafava said.

Parents who come for graduation are often in tears when they see how the program has changed inmates, said Gregory, the reading teacher.

“I have taught at least two hundred people, from illiteracy to reading their first book,” he said.

The average shock camp graduate rises one level in reading and math, but some have greater improvement, according to the Justice Department study.

Forty-three percent of graduates in 1993 improved their reading scores by two or more grade levels, and 6% improved by four or more grade levels.

A total of 61% in 1993 improved their math scores by two or more grade levels, and 14% by four or more grade levels.

The state has another state shock camp in Chautauqua County, near the western state border, which must remain open.

State officials have said they will help community leaders find a new use for the shock camp site, but Stec is skeptical.

Mount McGregor Correctional Facility in Moreau & Wilton, which closed in 2014, is still empty.

Camp Gabriels, a minimum security state prison in Franklin County, closed in 2009 and is still empty.

Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility in Dannemora, which closed in 2011 and was sold to a Canadian businessman in 2014, is still vacant.

“The state does not have a good track record of reusing old correctional facilities,” Stec said.

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