Colony Farm.

Capacity Expansion; Inmate Program Enhancement

The population explosion in DOCS necessitated the acquisition of additional housing space through absorption of facilities from other agencies and new construction. In 1982, Eastern participated in the capacity expansion project by erecting an annex outside of and adjacent to the walls.

The Department's need for more beds was also responsible for an entire institution adjacent to Eastern. While overseeing operations at Eastern, Superintendent Robert K. Mitchell was given responsibility for planning and on-site supervision of the construction and opening of the new Ulster Correctional Facility. Ground was broken in 1988 and the first inmates were received in 1990. Ulster, now independent of Eastern, is an 882-bed receiving and classification institution for medium security inmates sentenced from the NYC criminal courts. . . .

Eastern has a tradition of strong programming. After the turbulence of the 1970s, when many critics and some correction practitioners were advocating a "crackdown," Eastern took a different approach. Programs were treated not as frills but as indispensable to all aspects of facility operations and especially to security.

Eastern bucked the trend to dismantle prison farms as not relevant for urban inmates. Eastern expanded its dairy herd, developed a large beef operation, and grew many of its own vegetables. The revitalized farm program demonstrated economic viability, and also generated intangible improvements in the attitudes and behavior of inmate farm workers. In 1996, Eastern's Colony Dairy Farm received the Dairy of Distinction Award from the American Dairy Association.

Eastern pioneered the development of environmentally sensitive and fiscally responsible recycling and composting programs. The programs divert thousands of tons of recyclable from the wastestream and, by serving townships and school districts, also generates revenue. Such programs are now the statewide policy of DOCS.

The 180-bed Eastern Annex supplies inmates with "outside clearance" for the farms and maintenance work outside the walls. Since 1994, the Annex has been designated as a therapeutic community for inmates with histories of both substance abuse and domestic violence. This unique program was the first of its kind to be initiated in the U.S., and was recognized in 1996 with a national award from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. (As a point of interest, the Annex's first director -- under Superintendent Coombe -- was Glenn S. Goord. Both men would later head the Corrections Department.)

Another innovative program is the Braille Translation Unit. Eastern works closely with the NYC Vision Resource Center and the NYS Education Department's Resource Center to provide Braille textbooks and other educational printed material for visually handicapped public school children. The inmates assigned to this unit gain transferable skills in word processing, computer usage, translating (to Braille), printing, graphics, and all other office practices while working as a team to produce Braille materials.

In 1984, Eastern created a 30-bed Sensorial Disabled Unit to assist visually and hearing impaired inmates to function in a "mainstream" prison setting. Specially trained SDU staff address communication skills, academic education, mobility training, and other individual needs as may be identified. Some participants make dog tags in a sheltered workshop environment for issuance by the state. The residential SDU also acts as a resource for impaired inmates in the general population.

Eastern operates a correctional industries program producing goods for sale to other correctional facilities, other state agencies, local governments, and not-for-profits. The industrial program has two components, together employing over 100 inmates. The Sign Shop and Mattress Shop feature state-of-the-art graphics and manufacturing methods, including equipment maintenance. The programs generate more than $3 million in revenue while providing inmates with on-the-job work experience in a modem production setting, often leading to employment upon release. . . .

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