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NY state is decommissioning its prison farm program.

“DOCS runs farm operations at a dozen of its 69 correctional facilities: Green Haven and Beacon (Dutchess County), Clinton (Clinton County), Eastern and Wallkill (Ulster County), Elmira (Chemung County), Greene (Greene County), Groveland (Livingston County), Sullivan (Sullivan County), Wyoming (Wyoming County), and Mid-State and Washington. The farms, which produce meat, milk and vegetables for the production of meals in the prison system, are intended to provide inmates with vocational experience. However, the farms have become increasingly costly to operate when viewed in light of the limited benefit they provide.

Beacon, Clinton and Washington run beef operations. Wallkill has a dairy farm. Elmira, Green Haven, Greene, Sullivan and Wyoming operate dairy farms and milk processing operations. Groveland grows field crops. Mid-State grows field crops and vegetables. And Eastern runs dairy, beef, beef processing and sawmill operations.

The farm operations employ 39 correction officers and 41 full-time civilian employees, and 188 inmates work on the farms. The correction officer jobs will be eliminated through attrition. DOCS will offer the civilian employees other jobs within the agency to the extent possible and will work with those employees and other State agencies to enhance the employees’ opportunities for transfer to other State jobs during the six- to eight-month decommissioning of the farms. The ultimate elimination of the prison farms will produce a net savings to DOCS of $3.4 million annually.

DOCS will work with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to assist in decommissioning the farms.”

As you can see  their explanation is budget justified by limited benefit of farming to the NY prision population.  In a report by WBFO, it was reported that, “.”

Though I was never a 4H kid, this argument runs counter to all research on the benefits of 4H, including coping skills, public speaking, leadership, etc.  Now granted these farm are not running on the 4H model, however there are able to teach many real world skills that in many circumstances, people in prison may not have learned while growing up.  They can learn budgeting, business managment, marketing, inventory, shipping/receiving, general vet tech skills.  The practical skills go beyond learning how to clean a barn.  The DOC’s view on the career benefits alone shows their sterotype of the role of a farmer, that they don’t have marketable skills off the farm.  In my opinion its just the opposite.  To be a successfull farmer, you need multiple skill sets all of which are transferrable to jobs in any sector.

This program, if ran correctly, could provide emotional and interpersonal skills useful to the inmates for life, along with skills that are usable in any 9-5 job.  I truly believe if they ran the prison farms in conjunction with a combination 4H/shock treatment facility model they would be well on their way to reducing recidivism.

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