NYCHS Presentation Page 13 of 15

Jails for the 80s
NYC DOC Report



The purposes of this chapter are:

  • To describe the existing housing areas and special- service facilities in terms of capacity and security.

  • To measure the projected 1985 capacity needs against existing facilities.

  • To recommend strategies for the re-use of existing space and new construction to meet projected .required capacity.

This analysis takes a fresh look at existing Departmental policies in several areas, in some cases proposing recommendations which depart from assumptions of long standing. The policies reviewed include:

  1. Use of Dormitories
    Dormitories are traditionally used for lower security population. The population of DOC is increasingly a maximum security population; 30% of existing capacity, however, is found in dormitories. Therefore, the salient issues to be considered are:
    • For which security groups are dorms appropriate?
    • What should be the density (square feet per inmate)-of dormitories?
    • What are the groups that should never be housed in dorms?

  2. Optimum Facility Size
    Current professional standards recognize that large facilities with capacities greater than 500600 are no longer desirable. How can the Department, which operates four major facilities with capacity greater than 1,000, bring its physical plant more into line with established correctional practice and maximize flexibility of use for each institution?

  3. The Definition of "security"
    This plan assumes that security is defined as much by how a building can operate as by its security hardware and fences alone. This means that some capital improvement recommendations are intended by the team to be part of its comprehensive program to upgrade the level of security at Departmental facilities. Examples of this include provision of additional program and recreation space at all borough houses to reduce inmates' long hours of idleness, a major source of frustration and stress; and the pairing of facilities into institutions which can deal with inmates in smaller, more manageable groups.

  4. Centralization vs. Decentralization of Functions
    Rather than opt for apparent consistency on the basis of centralization vs. decentralization alone, the plan chooses 'to tailor recommendations to the specific needs of the function under review. Thus, it has been determined that classification will work well on a borough-based, decentralized basis, while staff cutbacks and the need to consolidate thinly-spread operations has suggested a centralized response to the medical/mental health service delivery component.


The system today, with HDM at design capacity and many dorms occupied at rates higher than those allowed by the NYC Board of Correction*,

* at densities ranging from 37.5 s.f./inmate to about 50 s.f./ inmate, with some double- bunking, particularly in sentence areas.

**Includes the C-71 fifth quad, awaiting activation.

has a total general confinement capacity of 7150 spaces.

This total includes 4500 general confinement** cells and about 2650 dormitory spaces. This does not include the 426 cells of the new Manhattan House of Detention scheduled to open in early 1982.

In addition, there are somewhat over 2,100 additional spaces set aside for limited and special-purpose use: approximately 660 for segregation categories; 1,270 for short-term limited use (e.g., new admissions, medical and similar); nearly 700 for sentenced help in detention facilities; and a varying number, 300 or more at any time, converted to nonhousing use or unavailable due to the need for repairs. (See Chart IV - 1.)

Chart IV - 1

If present dorm space were to be utilized in accord with existing standards - 75 square feet per inmate -- and if HDM were to be "capped" at 1200 capacity, the system's total capacity would drop by 22 percent. The court has already announced its intention to order a reduction in HDM's capacity to 1200; it is easy to see that further impediments will be added to the Department's continuing efforts to address the question of density in its dormitory housing until such time as the current population pressures begin to abate and the City gains additional capacity elsewhere.
(See Chart IV - 2)

Chart IV - 2

. . . the Department anticipates closing HDM altogether. . . . The resultant loss of maximum-security single-cell space, already at a premium, amounts to one third of the system's entire general confinement cell space. Even after the capacity of the new Manhattan House is taken into consideration, the Department, without HDM, will have 1000 fewer general confinement cells in its system.

The most cost-effective method of replacing some of that capacity quickly will be through the utilization of spaces potentially available within existing facilities, including some which currently are put to non-housing use and some which were never finished during construction. The plan also proposes the movement of some populations which now occupy maximum-security cell space (e.g., sentenced women) to alternative housing arrangements, thereby freeing up additional cells. When these efforts have been maximized, it is anticipated that there will remain an irreducible requirement for approximately 500-600 maximum security single cells which cannot be obtained within the present system, and which, therefore, must be built.

Some observers may argue that the "irreducible 500 - 600" spaces are roughly equal to the present State-ready and parole-violator populations and should the City get rid of these groups, the need to build new single-cell general confinement space would disappear. This argument does not account for two other elements in the city correctional system that affect total need:

First, population groups which require maximum security space - which is always cell space - are growing, while groups appropriately housed in dormitory space are either stable or declining. This means that somewhat more cell space will be required in the future. (For a more complete analysis, see the discussion on security level needs which follows this subchapter.)

Already, some population groups have expanded beyond the capacity of existing institutions to house them in general confinement beds. This means that when inmates are placed in temporary segregation or limited use spaces, their regularly assigned beds are "backfilled" with new inmates, bringing the institution above 100% of allowable capacity. Not only does this violate mandates of the State Commission of Correction, but it causes abnormal wear and tear on the physical plant, disrupts the ability to manage effectively and puts stress on the security staff that is intolerable. These institutions, especially ARDC, C-73 and the three borough houses, need "room to breathe", which means that the level of average daily population should be approximately 85% of actual bed space.

The second element affecting total need is that the number of dormitory spaces available for detainees will also decline as the 75 square feet/inmate mandate of the Board of Corrections is applied. In the Bronx alone, for example, the imposition of this requirement will result in the loss of nearly 25% of the facility's detention dormitory capacity. In light of the recent experience of the Department, it is apparent that cells are needed to meet security-level requirements of the projected population groups.

Most displaced by the loss of HDM are male adult detainees from Manhattan, expected to number approximately 1300 by 1985. At that time there will be 360 general confinement borough-based spaces available. This deficiency suggests that the replacement space should be built in Manhattan, as close as possible to the courts and other components of the criminal justice system, thereby moving the system at least partially toward the rationale of the "transfer" project, which proposed that detainees ought to be located near their places of trial, their attorneys, other actors in the adjudication process and their families, friends and potential witnesses.

It is not adequate simply to count beds in the system to evaluate the sufficiency of capacity. The requirements of individual population groups differ, and even within groups there is a need for differing levels of security, made explicit by the Department's mandate to maintain inmates in its custody with no greater level of restraint than is necessary to detain them.

***Such a system is in operation at the Women's House with regard to the "overflow" adolescents housed there. Those who abuse their physical environment are returned to the more restricted environment of ARDC.

Operational experience recognizes the desirability of different levels of security in order to create an incentive system for inmate behavior.***


In order to evaluate security level needs, there must be three phases of analysis:

  • A description of what space constitutes each level of security.

  • A definition of "need" - that is, how many people require what levels of restraint,

    combined with programmatic and other strategic requirements;

  • An assessment of the system's capacity to provide what is needed.


The planning team has employed the following definitions of space within the Department's facilities:

    Maximum Security

  • Inside cells.

  • Outside cells if in a horizontal facility surrounded by a security barrier/fence.

  • Outside cells if in a vertical facility whose exterior is sealed with non-operable windows and a climate-control system.

    Medium Security

  • Outside cells if in a horizontal facility without a surrounding security barrier/fence.

  • Dormitories if separated from perimeter walls of each housing area by a barred catwalk AND in a vertical facility.

  • Dormitories if separated from perimeter walls of each housing area by a barred catwalk AND in a horizontal facility surrounded by a security barrier/fence.

    Minimum Security

  • Dormitories where inmates have easy access to windows and where building perimeter is not sealed (vertical) or surrounded by a security barrier/fence (horizontal).

The above definitions of levels of physical security must be considered together with the operational considerations of maintaining security in a correctional institution. The term "security" is basically comprised of two facets, external and internal.

External security, the utilization of inanimate objects that ensure that unauthorized persons do not enter or exit from restricted areas, involves not only the configuration of cells and dormitories and the vertical or horizontal nature of the building itself, but also the quality of windows and hardware, and routine and preventive maintenance scheduled on a regular basis to keep same in good working order.

Internal security represents the implementation of a set of procedures for operation of the facility by its security staff. This is the overriding consideration: as the uniformed staff of this Department has proved in recent years, dedicated and skilled correctional staff can often maintain security in facilities which, from an "external" point of view, are "leaky sieves." Conversely, poor staff judgment can compromise the most sophisticated of physical security barriers.

The space utilization program at the end of this chapter addresses security needs in their full complexity, recommending capital improvements to the facilities in order to enhance security beyond that provided by the location of cells and the presence or absence of a double perimeter fence outside. Strategies for operating existing facilities in ways designed to provide better internal security - as for example with adolescent detainees - are also included.


This subchapter describes the needs of various population groups in the system in terms of security levels and specialized space requirements.

Male Adult Detainees

Male adult Detainees constitute the largest single population category in the Department's system, representing 71% of all DOC detainees. They require varying degrees of security ranging from medium to maximum levels, with the majority requiring maximum security space.

The greatest number of suicides and suicide attempts are recorded for this group; high incident rates, escapes and escape attempts also predominate. For this reason, dormitory housing is not advisable for male adult detainees. Its use should be minimized wherever the alternative of individual cell space exists.

Average Number Expected in 1985:3,300
Security Requirements:

Maximum Security:

2,900 (88%)

Medium Security:

400 (12%)

Male Adolescent Detainees

Male adolescent detainees, another large population group, are the most problematic group within the Department. These inmates are characteristically immature and incident prone in terms of escape risk, suicide attempts and assaultive behavior. With few exceptions, they are considered a population for maximum security housing: single cells in small housing units.

Adolescents require a high degree of programming. They require education and active recreational opportunities, and for purposes of both movement control and general security, facilities dedicated to this population should be rich in such space. Adolescents typically have a large amount of energy to expend. Directing this energy through positive individual and group activities is a difficult but necessary function for managing adolescent males.

They also require more direct supervision than any other group of inmates within the system. Maximum staff-inmate interaction is essential to pr6vide emotional support and individual identification with positive role models.

Small group programming is recommended to provide both a security and a social function.

Average Number Expected in 1985:1,400
Security Requirements:

Maximum Security:

1,260 (90%)

Medium Security:

140 (10%)

Sentenced Male Adults

Sentenced male adults constitute a relatively mature and stable population group. Security needs for adult sentenced males range from minimum to medium, with a few maximum security cells provided for occasional requirements. Experience indicates a relatively low incident rate, low escape attempt rate and low suicide rate. Security problems with this group relate mainly to contraband control.

Dormitory housing for this group is acceptable when necessary since these inmates spend a large portion of their time outside the housing areas engaged in work details. Adult sentenced males are used as cadre in all detention facilities and are also employed in Departmental industries on Rikers Island. Work opportunities should be maximized for this population group.

Average Number Expected in 1985:1,430
Security Requirements:

Minimum Security:

1,000 (70%)

Medium Security:

400 (28%)

Maximum Security:

30 cells (2%)

Sentenced Male Adolescents

Sentenced male adolescents, although a somewhat more stable group than the male adolescent detainee population, exhibit many of the same characteristics as the latter group. Their greater stability comes from the facts that the uncertainty of how long they will be in the system has been resolved with sentencing and that they have become oriented to jail. Though they account for the greatest number of incidents among sentenced inmates, sentenced adolescents have relatively low escape attempt and suicide rates.

However, definite security needs are contraband control and intensive supervision, indicating a high staffing commitment.

Average Number Expected in 1985:546
Security Requirements:

Medium Security:

436 (80%)

Maximum Security:

110 (20%)

Female Detainees, Adult and Adolescent

Female detainees, adult and adolescent have typically not represented a significant security threat in the Department's system. Experience indicates that most female inmates do not escape or commit suicide, nor are they a particularly incident-prone group. Part of this undoubtedly reflects their relatively small numbers.

However, as with any cross-section of the population, there are individual exceptions, making the chief space-related requirement of this group a capability of the facility to provide numerous small, separate housing units, at security levels ranging from medium to maximum.

Average Number Expected in 1985: 200
Security Requirements:

Maximum Security:

40 adol. (20%)
160 adult (80%)

Sentenced Females, Adult and Adolescent

Sentenced-females, adult and adolescent. are basically a minimum-security population. However, both because of the full complement of separate housing areas required even for the small number of inmates involved, and because of the desirability of housing female prisoners in individual rooms, dormitory housing is not recommended.

Female inmates require the same program space as males, with adolescents requiring access to education, and sentenced adults, opportunities for work.

Average Number Expected in 1985: 125
Security Requirements:

Minimum Security:


'Specialized Housing"

"Specialized Housing" populations are those who, although they fall into one of the groups discussed generally above, have continuing specialized needs (or duties) that cannot be accommodated by the general confinement and limited-use/ segregation beds in the Department's institutions for their population group. . . . Providing for these sub-classifications, which appear in each population group, is deemed to be a jail management function; sufficient space is provided for these in each institution as part of the contingency, or "swing", space.

The three categories of specialized housing which require recognition and special planning are

  1. inmates requiring mental health services;

  2. inmate medical inpatients; and

  3. cadre -- sentenced prisoners who live in detention facilities as work gangs.

Because of the scarcity of staff and resources, the Department has chosen to centralize the mental health services delivery system . . . . This program will bring together the full complement of DOC inmates - adult and adolescent, male and female, detainee and sentenced - who require mental health services, in a single facility where a range of housing alternatives is provided and staff are concentrated to most effectively treat this population. The mental health unit is expected to require a 400-bed capacity to house a projected 240 adult male detainees, 40 adolescent male detainees, 105 adult sentenced males and 15 female inmates in all categories. Cadre beds will also be required. A mix of single cells and dormitory or multiple-occupancy bedroom space is to be provided.

A second specialized housing component of the system is the medical services unit. Formerly provided in the Rikers Island Infirmary, these beds are needed to provide the following range of services, some not now available:

  • Emergency and observation services, including minor trauma, fractures, dislocations, minor head injuries, and the like. These constitute the majority of patients now sent out to municipal hospital emergency rooms because no Island capability exists;

  • Infirmary care for patients who in a non-institutional setting would not require admission to a health-related facility, including those with uncomplicated diseases, medication requirements, needs for isolation;

  • Convalescent-continuing care for patients who could be released earlier from major hospitalizations if the capability now existed. Includes those with highly specialized feeding requirements, intravenous fluid applications, laboratory monitoring and the like;

  • sub-acute specialty care for those needing minor operative procedures such as multiple dental extractions, wiring for a broken jaw; with simple pneumonia or other conditions not requiring the support of a major medical center.

The City recognized the cost-effectiveness of such an approach to the delivery of health services to the 5,000 residents of Rikers Island five years ago, but the financial crisis forced the prior mayoral administration to shelve plans to construct such a facility. Today, in a time of even greater operating austerities, it is needed more than ever.

The final specialized category of housing is that for cadre, i.e., sentenced adult males who live and work in detention centers. They are explicitly recognized here in order to highlight the planning considerations for the separation of living areas from detainee living units; minimum security level requirement; dormitory space appropriate. It is presently estimated that 800 spaces will be required throughout the system for cadre when the recommended space utilization program is completely implemented.

Can Today's Facilities Meet the Security-Level
Requirements Set Forth Above?

The 4,476 general confinement cells, the 2,649 general confinement dormitory spaces and the 692 sentenced cadre beds in the system today are categorized by security level as follows:

at 1865 Cap
at 1200 Cap
HDM Proper . . . . . . .
Bklyn. HDM . . . . . . .
Bronx HDM (cells only) . . .
Queens HDM (cells only) ....
xxxxx _____

*Bklyn HDM also has 120 "High Maximum Security" spaces
not counted here, as they are considered limited-use space.

at 1865 Cap
at 1200 Cap
MEDIUM SECURITY BEDS (R.I. facilities, until fenced)
C-71 . . . . . . .
ARDC . . . . . . .
C-73 . . .
Bronx HDM (dorm spaces) ....
Queens HDM (dorm-spaces) ....
xxxxx _____

at 1865 Cap
at 1200 Cap
CIFM . . . . . . .
xxxxx _____

at 1865 Cap
at 1200 Cap
Total general confinement
and sentenced beds at all
security levels:
xxxxx _____

Against this must be measured the general confinement bed needs of each population group. Recalling the projected 1985 needs assessment completed in the "Security Levels" subchapter just above, we can measure each group's requirements against presently available space as follows:

*Does not include segregation, limited-use and converted or unavailable spaces.

The calculations on the chart above yield several conclusions:

  1. Departmental space, particularly on Rikers Island, is generally too "soft" from a security standpoint for current and projected population.
  2. Rikers Island facilities should be fenced with double-perimeter-barriers of wire mesh and razor ribbon, with electronic detection equipment attached. This will provide the external security barrier required to gain maximum-security space at ARDC, C-71 and C-73 which, because of their outside cell configuration and lack of barriers, must today be classified as medium security facilities.

Further, the numbers reveal the large excess of minimum security space that the Department is burdened with at present, and point to the wisdom of considering some alternative use of that space, as it is poorly located and extremely expensive to convert to greater-security cell space.

Finally, the numbers support the argument that when HDM's capacity is lost, new maximum security space must be built. The deficit will be reduced by up to 360 general confinement spaces early in-1982 when the Manhattan HDM is completed, but some 1,000 maximum security cells remain to be "found" in the system and/or built.

[Note: The above text is from the first part of Chapter IV,
pages IV - 1 through IV - 25.]
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