NYCHS Presentation Page 9 of 15

Jails for the 80s
NYC DOC Report


It will come as no surprise to most observers that significant portions of the corrections physical plant are aging and deteriorated; that others have suffered in recent years from high levels of deferred maintenance stemming from necessary cutbacks in operating budgets; and that sometimes the City has "shaved" development budgets in the newest projects, erecting facilities which may not pass the test of time without additional capital investment.

However, the Department has tried to be realistic in developing its needs statement for capital funds, taking cognizance of budgetary constraints and competing City claims for limited funds. The assessment of physical condition and the Action Plan which follow highlight only those actions which are required to meet the following limited objectives:

  1. Ensuring that New York City has enough space of high enough security to meet the requirements of the criminal justice system 1981-1985;
  2. Bringing the city's jails into compliance with the existing provisions of Board of Correction standards and the terms of Consent Decrees signed by this Administration with the Federal District Courts;
  3. Dealing sufficiently with the "Open Issues" in the six pending lawsuits challenging conditions at existing facilities that the city can reasonably hope to avoid subsequent remedies of high and open-ended cost. . . .


The NYC Department of Correction operates six major facilities on Rikers Island and three borough houses of detention, one each in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn. In addition to these institutions there is also a centralized Departmental infirmary, the Rikers Island Hospital, three hospital prison wards, and court detention facilities adjacent to each borough's criminal and supreme court parts. A small work release facility is maintained on West 118th Street in upper Manhattan.

General Characteristics of the
Physical Plant

Nearly a third of the Department's total general confinement space is more than forty years old. This stock is comprised of institutions built before the advent of modern correctional standards and court decisions interpreting the constitutional rights of detained persons to certain basic services. Without exception these facilities - the House of Detention for Men on Rikers Island, the Rikers Island Infirmary and the Bronx House of Detention - contain small, barred inside cells of 40 to 50 square feet separated from natural light and air by officer catwalks. Interiors are painted concrete.

During the 1960s substantial additional capacity was built, some as replacement space for older facilities phased out but most to accommodate additional population. Some of these facilities, including the Brooklyn and Queens Houses of Detention, echo the design philosophy of an earlier age, repeating the vertically stacked two-tier floors of inside cell housing areas. others, primarily the building quads known as "C-71" on Rikers Island, introduce outside cell construction, somewhat larger living quarters (cells approaching 70 square feet) and arrangement of housing areas in smaller groups of living units. Because the city sentenced population was then outpacing the rate of admission of detainees, substantial dormitory space of minimum security level was also constructed during the 1960s on the Island. This period, ending with the construction of the Adolescent Reception and Detention Center in 1971, was also characterized by a tendency to build institutions of very large size: at the completion of its second phase, C-71 contained almost a thousand beds; the Correctional Institution for Men, some 2,055 dormitory spaces; the Brooklyn House, design capacity of 815; and ARDC, 1,080 single cells.

With one exception, the Women's House of Detention, a new institution completed in 1974 to replace the old Greenwich Street Jail in Manhattan, most of the construction undertaken in the 1970s was designed to supplement, annex and add additional support to existing facilities. Included in this construction program were a fifth quad for C-71, raising its total capacity to 1,240 beds; yet another dormitory annex for the Correctional Institution for Men; and the support/dormitory structure known as C-95, the Anna M. Kross Center. The latter, completed only three years ago, has never been fully activated, due primarily to the insufficiency of physical security at the building: non-secure dormitory housing space; acoustical tile dropped ceilings; no general library, law library, classroom or counseling space. Intended as additional support for the C-71 housing areas, AMKC is separated from C-71 by a corridor that extends a quarter of a mile from the farthest housing floors of the latter building.

All Departmental facilities were evaluated within the past three months after a thorough review of physical conditions with the maintenance and security captains of each institution and a physical inspection utilizing a comprehensive written survey instrument. Facilities were evaluated according to existing professional and legislative standards in the following areas: structural conditions; building systems; life safety (including fire code); security; "open court issues" regarding habitability (noise/heat/light/air/sanitation/health services); Board of Correction minimum standards and the terms of Consent Decrees; general site conditions; and guideline standards of the American Correctional Association, which provides the profession's national accreditation program.

Initially, a list was prepared of all conditions which failed to meet one or more of the above criteria. From this comprehensive listing, a renovation and repair schedule was evolved which, in the judgment of the Department, represents the "bare bones" program necessary to meet mandated legislative standards and to address the most grievous physical problems of the major facilities. Highly desirable but non-critical items (painting, for example) were omitted.

On the basis of these assessments a three-level capital needs statement was suggested which categorizes each of the Department's major facilities as requiring one of three degrees of treatment:

  • Removal from the system and replacement of the function

  • Moderate level of expenditure and/or a change of program to reach maximum utilization for present needs

  • Little or no capital improvements. . . . . .

[Note: The above text is from part of Chapter III,
pages III - 1 through III - 6.]
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