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The Correctional Association of NY released a report on March 31, 2016 about Collins Correctional Facility, highlighting the large number of people with mental illness incarcerated at Collins and the lack of support and programs for these and other people incarcerated at the prison. Collins Correctional Facility is a medium security prison in western New York that incarcerates just over 1,000 people. The Correctional Association conducted a full monitoring visit of Collins in 2013 and gathered updated information about Collins in 2015.

The CA is deeply concerned about the lack of capacity and effective mental health interventions for the half of the prison population who are on the OMH caseload, including the large number of people in isolated confinement in the S-block. There was a rapid transfer of large numbers of people with mental health needs to Collins, yet there is no group therapy, little individual therapy, and little changes in facility operations to address the large increase. The CA is also concerned about the insufficient academic and vocational program capacity at Collins, as well as insufficient medical provider capacity and complaints about the quality of medical care.

Nearly two-thirds of the people incarcerated at Collins without a GED were not enrolled in an academic class, four vocational shops were closed in the four years prior to our visit, and the substance abuse treatment waitlist was four times the number of people enrolled. In addition, long periods of isolated confinement in the 200-bed S-block that currently holds around 180 people and low parole release rates at the facility raised concerns.

More positively, the CA was pleased to find a relatively calm atmosphere at Collins, including relatively low levels of reported verbal harassment or physical confrontations between staff and incarcerated persons. The CA was also pleased to find that mental health patients gave relatively positive reviews of OMH staff, and that Collins operated a Family Reunion Program, something less common for medium security prisons.

Overall, despite the relatively calm atmosphere at Collins and some positive components, DOCCS and state policy-makers must make much stronger efforts to stop incarcerating so many people with mental illness, remove people with mental illness and all people from solitary, provide enhanced mental health treatment and program opportunities – including higher education and reintegration preparation – for people incarcerated at Collins, and release people on parole who have demonstrated their readiness to return to the community.

Download the full report here.