NYCHS Presentation Page 5 of 15

Jails for the 80s
NYC DOC Report


In 1978, the newly-elected Koch Administration moved to establish two correctional objectives:

1. Compliance with professional minimum standards.

2. Settlement of outstanding litigation over unconstitutional conditions in corrections facilities.

Additional operating funds, including an increase in security personnel, were appropriated to ensure the Department's ability to attain those objectives.

While some capital improvement appropriations were made to rectify certain areas in litigation, basic questions concerning the physical capacity of the system remained unaddressed.

During the past two and one half years a major effort on the part of the City was directed toward negotiation with the State on the proposed Rikers Island transfer plan. Under this proposal the entire Island complex would have been transferred to the State correctional system in exchange for $200 million, which would have been allocated toward the construction of eight new borough-based detention centers located close to the courts.

Although the plan was hailed for programmatic merits, a reassessment of the City's financial plan and the projected total cost of the project, resulted in the Mayor, the City Council President and the Comptroller, announcing that the City would not pursue the transfer.

At the time of the decision, the Mayor reiterated the administration's commitment to upgrade the capital condition of the City's jails, reaffirmed his intention to immediately direct $40 million toward those needs and directed the Department to develop an alternative capital development plan for the '80s.

The capital development plan presented here is a response to this directive. The plan lays out, within the constraints of very limited capital dollars and a continuing presence on Rikers Island, a series of capital policy options which will ensure that existing capital appropriations are being directed toward the most critical needs; and a reasonable ordering of capital priorities, which can be scheduled as additional funds become available.

The recommended actions which flow out of this plan are based on the recognition that the New York City corrections and detention system has experienced the impact of several significant developments over the past ten years which dramatically altered the nature of the system. Briefly these are:

Change in Inmate Population
The proportion of detainees to sentenced persons has shifted. Rikers Island, conceived originally as a complex for sentenced inmates, has been forced to become a detention center. The nature and layout of the physical facilities and the Island's remote location from the borough courts are not appropriate to this role.

Constitutional Requirements
Emerging case law suggests that many facilities can be adjudged inadequate . . . .

The changing nature of the inmate population requires greater security than originally provided. The affirmation of inmate rights by the Courts and the introduction of new programs and services changed a rather stable system where persons remained locked in cells for up to 23 hours each day, to a system characterized by increasing inmate movement.

The increased activity of the NYC Board of Correction and the creation of the NYS Commission of Correction resulted in mandates and requirements for recreation, indoor and outdoor, visiting, access to a full program day and a range of educational and social services which called for a total reassessment of the design and plant capability of each jail.

Facility Conditions
Advanced age, an abnormal level of wear and tear, and deferred maintenance have had an enormous negative impact on the Department's facilities.

The change in the nature and number of the inmate population and in the basic function and operation of the City's jails warrants a fresh determination of the Department's physical capacity to accommodate its new mandate.

The Policy Statement develops a comprehensive population projection in order to determine the amount and security level of space which the system requires; reviews the City-State corrections relationship; examines the conditions of each City facility in terms of structural soundness; . . . and provides alternative strategies and costs for the most efficient future use of existing institutions. . . .

[Note: The above text is from pages "i"
through "v" of the report.]
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