Revisiting Shock Incarceration: CA Report Details Conditions at Lakeview Correctional Facility

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The CA’s Prison Visiting Project has published a report detailing conditions at Lakeview Correctional Facility, a minimum security prison located 50 miles outside of Buffalo. The CA last visited the facility in 1996, noting then, as we did this time around, that Lakeview is not your average state prison.

Lakeview is one of four “Shock Incarceration” facilities in New York State, which is home to the largest Shock program in the country. Shock Incarceration is a controversial, “boot camp” style program that emphasizes substance abuse treatment, discipline, and education, and enables incarcerated individuals to reduce their sentences to six months.

Overall, the Project found positive conditions at Lakeview, with the staff highly dedicated and committed to the program’s mission. Incarcerated people largely benefit from the intensive programming and many expressed their appreciation for the program’s rehabilitative components. However, the Project was concerned about the apparent high level of physical and verbal confrontations between staff and incarcerated people and among other incarcerated individuals, which exceeds that of many other facilities. The Project also noted that incarcerated individuals who were not accepted into or who declined the Shock program would often wait months in the prison’s “Annex” before transferring to another facility. Programs in the Annex were limited, leading to a significant degree of idleness and adversely affecting incarcerated individuals’ ability to earn early release.

As with all its monitoring reports, the Project presented its findings to the facility’s administrators, to New York State Department of Correctional Services officials, and to state legislators.

Based on our recommendations, Lakeview has already substantially reduced the Annex’s population, effectively addressing the idleness issue. In drawing attention to both positive and negative aspects of New York’s prisons, such reports provide a means of improving conditions and promoting best practices at individual facilities as well as system-wide.