On Oct.1, local
State Department of Correctional Services Commissioner Glenn S. Goord launched a series of Eastern New York Correctional Facility Centennial events Aug. 14th when he announced an invitation to the public to tour the NYS's sixth-oldest prison during an "open house" Saturday, August 26, as part of the Napanoch institution's ongoing celebration of its 100 years. Eastern is located on Institution Road, just off Route 209 in Ulster County.
Original construction on Eastern began
in 1894, and the first prisoners arrived at the facility on October 1,
1900. In 1921, Eastern became the Institute for Defective Delinquents.
Some 45 years later, due much in part to a new emphasis on civil liberties,
Eastern resumed its original function as a reformatory for younger inmates.
Commissioner Goord who announced the open-house kick-off of the Centennial events series is himself a former "Easterner," having served as the first director of the facility's 180-bed annex. During the Aug. 26th tour, visitors were able to experience firsthand the rich history that is Eastern, a facility which currently houses 1,247 inmates and employs approximately 600 people.
Guided tours of the institution - which gave the public a glimpse of "life within the walls" - were conducted by security staff from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors did come in contact with any inmates while they toured housing units, the mess hall, vocational shops and industrial areas, the facility's bakery and other areas. Visitors also saw Eastern's nationally acclaimed Braille transcription unit, assorted displays featuring historical photos, a video cataloguing Eastern's first 100 years and other interesting artifacts. A variety of commemorative centennial memorabilia also was available for purchase.
Each tour lasted about an hour. An individual tour group was limited to about 15 people. Cameras or other recording devices were prohibited.