Fishkill Correctional Facility

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Fishkill Correctional Facility is a 1,845-bed capacity medium security prison in Beacon, New York, 60 miles north of New York City.

The Correctional Association’s Prison Visiting Project visited Fishkill on April 17 and 18, 2012.

Compared to other prisons the CA has visited, Fishkill had:

  • A significantly older population of people serving relatively longer sentences
  • Unique services for people with special needs, including a Unit for the Cognitively Impaired, a residential mental health program, and a Long Term Care Unit in a Regional Medical Unit
  • Higher education opportunities through Nyack and Bard Colleges, and the Rising Hope Program in Ministry and Human Services
  • Positive volunteer programs, including Rehabilitation through the Arts and Puppies Behind Bars

On the other hand, the Correctional Association was significantly concerned to find:

  • Many people who were so physically and/or cognitively impaired that there no longer seems to be any justifiable reason for DOCCS or the state to continue to incarcerate them;
  • A culture permeating much of the staff that considered people who attempted self-harm as “malingerers,” rather than people in need of critical mental health treatment and support;
  • Complaints about staff harassment; threats; retaliation; frequent issuance of tickets and disciplinary confinement time; and sexual and physical abuse;
  • A large number of young people and people with mental health needs in isolated confinement;
  • Numerous complaints about multiple denials of parole over many years regardless of applicants’ accomplishments or growth.

Fishkill embodies both some of the great potential within DOCCS, and some of its most inhumane aspects. The variety of programs and services available demonstrates the tremendous potential for recognizing all incarcerated people as people; treating them with humanity, dignity, and respect; and providing opportunities that promote growth and self-actualization. On the other hand, the human tragedy of incarcerating aging people and persons with debilitating conditions, repeatedly denying parole for long termers, and subjecting people to the torture of solitary confinement and other forms of isolation serve as a reminder of the great cost the prison system imposes on our public resources and our humanity.

 

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