The staff of Inside Out included Errol D. Toulon, then a C.O. who served as its photographer.
In due course, he would rise through the ranks to become Correction Academy Deputy Warden during the 1990s.
In the summer of 2010, Toulon, a Monroe College professor, made available to this website a copy of the March 1982 issue of Inside Out.
From that issue copy, the NYCHS webmaster has created this eight-page web presentation of extracted images and texts.
This web page's images and texts were extracted from that newsletter issue's Page 5.
In the beginning, it must have sounded a bit like tongue-in-cheek humor to some members of the department staff: an inmate grievance program? No, it is not the first step toward a prisoners’ labor union. It is, instead, a concept mandated by Section 626(f) of the City Charter and, the woman who directs the department’s pilot programs at two facilities says, it has the potential to provide benefits for officials and civilian staff as well as the inmates it is primarily designed to serve.
In fact, the federal legislation, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, can actually provide an agency such as the Department of Correction with a benefit merely for establishing a federally-acceptable grievance program. Under the Act, if an agency has a certified program, a federal judge may require an inmate litigant to exhaust all his or her appeals under the institutional grievance mechanism before entertaining a federal Civil Rights suit.
The section of the City Charter which mandates the establishment of an inmate grievance program is part of the overall portion that deals with the rights and responsibilities of the Board of Correction and thus it fell to the Board and the Department to agree on a method of implementing the idea.
“The Board and the Department decided to model the program after a mechanism legislated for State prisons by the State Legislature,” Ms. Dixon said, “Although the program interfaces with the Board at one level of review, the program is run by the Department.”
The program was established in April, 1980, at two facilities — the New York City House of Detention for Men on Rikers Island and the Queens House of Detention for Men in Kew Gardens, and pending evaluation and funding, it remains in place only at those facilities.
In addItIon to providing the Department with a chance to confront complaints itself — rather than allowing outside agencies such as the Board of Correction or the Federal Courts to supersede it — the inmate grievance program also provides staff with a window into perceived concerns of inmates. Thus it is one tool in allowing the institution to learn the depth of problems that may, if unaddressed, lead to more dramatic complaints and confrontations down the line.
How does the inmate grievance pro- gram work? Ms. Dixon provides this review:
“The grievance program has five levels of review and response which an inmate may avail himself. At the informal level, the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee members try to resolve an inmate’s complaint. If it is not resolved at this level, it may proceed to a mediation hearing. At the hearing, an attempt is made to bring together parties to find a resolution not found previously. An inmate may appeal the Committee’s decision to the Warden — level two, and the Warden’s decision to level three. Level three is the Central Office Review Committee which is composed of the Department’s senior staff. The inmate may also appeal the CORC’s decision to the fourth level of review — the Board of Correction. The Commissioner is the final level and issues a final decision on any grievance reaching level four.
“The Department’s long range goals for this program are to decrease the necessity of inmate litigation, to ease facility tension and frustration, to improve conditions of confinement and to serve as an informational resource for managers,” Ms. Dixon said. Research and studies show that inmate grievance programs do decrease inmate infractions in the area of policy and procedure. This signals that inmates are better informed and understand Department rules and regulations.
But how does it acutally work in specific situations? Next month, in the second part of this series, Inside/Out will examine case histories at HDM and the Queens House and speak with officers directly involved in the program as well as inmates who utilize it.
Picture this: a ward at a major metropolitan hospital that’s clean, cheery, well-staffed and with modern medical facilities.
Mount Sinai? Sloan-Kettering? Lenox-Hill Hospi- tals? No it’s none of these. it is within the city’s own Kings County Hospital, and the patients in this ward are none other than Department of Correction inmates.The official designation is the Kings County Hospital Prison Medical Ward, commanded by Deputy Warden John Prendville.
Focusing on the three C’s: care, custody, and control, the ward, which opened in July, functions as a mini-hospital. According to Dep Prendville, “We are able to treat just about all major medical cases except intensive care and neurosurgery. If an inmate has a serious injury, heart trouble, or trauma he is treated by an attending physician."
As Dep Prendville escorted a visitor about the ward, the beige walls, with yellow, orange and white striped shades and brown tile floors gave the surroundings a polished well-coordinated look.
At the Dep’s request television volume was lowered. In another corner, two doctors attended inmates. Other inmates either read, talked to other inmates or slept. The only thing that belied the existence of a jail were the bars on the windows.
The average stay of inmates in the ward ranges from seven days to two weeks, which cuts down on “networking” among the inmates. Correction officer Wayne Roberts, a 12-year veteran of the department, says the ward is generally calm. “At most there are 12 men in here,” he said. “There aren’t many problems because there aren’t that many men. There are fewer problems to relate to. There are not any pressures between inmates and officers. In many cases it is possible to build up a one-to-one relationship with the inmates.”
One of the medical staff at KCHPW, Mrs. Mena, a nurse for 20 years and a supervising nurse for one year, says she doesn’t feel threatened by treating inmates. “Many times,” she said, “we are not aware of the inmate’s charge. We treat the person as a patient first.”
Although the atmosphere may be calm, the need for security never wanes. The ward is less than three months old and it already has a reputation for getting inmates as Dep Prendvifle puts it “hot off the press” or inmates involved in recent violent crimes. To offset this, there is a fully equipped control room with electronic gates. As you approach the ward there is an A officer stationed outside enclosed in a glass booth and a B officer stationed inside the ward with the inmates.
Security extends to the visiting rights of inmates. The visits are daily from 2 - 8 pm and are made on an appointment basis. Inmates are allowed two visitors who are screened using the traditional departmental procedures.
The Kings County Hospital Prison Ward represents a cooperative effort of both the Department of Correction and the Health and Hospital Corporation. HHC provided capital funding and medical staffing while DOC provided the security.
Prendville, who started his 20th year with the department in September has been assigned to KCH since October, 1979. He’s a family man with four teen-aged children. During his twenty years of service, Prendville says he has noticed the development of a positive attitude among the officers. “We have more officers who act in a more professional manner. They are more responsive to the needs of their job; they are more aware of what the job requires and entails.”
As the electronic gate clanged, a young doctor entered to sign in the log. He turned to his colleague and said, “This is the nicest ward in the hospital.”
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