Officers staffing Attica’s towers are so close that they overlook this medium-security prison in western New York, one of the dozen “cookie cutter” prisons of identical design to be stamped out in the 1980-90’s to accommodate a burgeoning prison population. Opened in 1984 with a capacity for 550 inmates, it was repeatedly asked to expand to today’s 1,722 inmates in order to meet demand – representing only one of the challenges being met by facility staff.
But while operating in the shadow of arguably what is the state’s most infamous prison, Wyoming has carved its own niche in the modern history of New York corrections.
That’s despite the fact, as shown from the picture above, the low-profile of the facility is dwarfed by a facility sign and its truck trap as visitors drive a winding road into the complex.
Even Attica has been affected by its relatively new neighbor. In an effort to hold the line on costs and save taxpayer dollars by operating more efficiently, employees in Wyoming’s maintenance department are now responsible for the care of the outside grounds and vehicle maintenance for both Wyoming and Attica. Wyoming employees also monitor and maintain the water tanks, sewers and the power plant for both facilities. . . .
Wyoming staff and inmates are also a leader in recycling to help save local and state taxpayers big bucks. . . .
Empowered with a multi-disciplined mission
Like other prisons throughout the state, Wyoming’s main mission is to ensure the safety of staff and inmates and provide the latter with the skills, education, counseling and programming they need to increase their chances of success upon their eventual reintegration into the community.
The facility offers a full range of academic and vocational programs aimed at achieving that objective. Wyoming, however, has a few more weapons in its arsenal than most other medium-security facilities.
Wyoming is one of just seven facilities in the state prison system to offer CASAT – Comprehensive Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment.
This initiative provides a continuum of intensive substance abuse treatment that begins with Phase I in a designated Alcohol and Substance AbuseTreatment Center (ASATC) facility setting.
Phase II follows, a transitional period in a work release community reintegration setting. This program is only available to inmates who meet the restrictive criteria for presumptive work release. A total of 100 ASATC slots are available at Wyoming with an additional 20 slots available for select inmates nearing enrollment in the program.
The program operates under the direction set forth in the Department’s CASAT manual, in conjunction with the substance abuse treatment concept of embracing the discipline of a therapeutic community. After six months of successful treatment and preparation during Phase I, program participants are moved into the community reintegration phase.
Like Phase I, Phase II typically lasts about six months. It is during this phase that program participants find and obtain employment to support themselves and their families; they also continue individualized treatment and counseling during Phase II.
The goals of the Department’s CASAT program are:
For inmates to be considered for admission to the program, they must have a documented history of alcohol and/or substance abuse; be within 10-24 months of earliest possible release; have received presumptive work release approval from Central Office and be classified as either minimum- or medium- security.
Wyoming is also one of the facilities that continues to see eligible inmates enrolled in college programs, at no cost to taxpayers. The program, known as the Consortium of the Niagara Frontier, began in 1975 and now serves 49 inmates.
Instructors come in from Canisius College, Daemen College, Niagara University and other institutions of higher learning in western New York. Faculty members provide a strong foundation for the inmates through their teaching of a liberal arts curriculum.
Fourteen inmates have earned bachelor’s degrees thus far in the 2002-03 academic year. The goal is to provide inmates with the education they need to acquire good-paying jobs to support themselves and their families.
Wyoming also offers inmates a sex offender treatment program. Intensive group counseling is a major component of this program but it also includes individual counseling and education. Emphasis is placed on developing an awareness of predisposing factors and alternative skills and behaviors in order to avoid deviate sexual activities.
The length of Wyoming’s sex offender program is six months. To be considered for admission, an inmate must be incarcerated for a sex-related offense or found guilty at a Tier Hearing for a sexually abusive/assaultive act; be willing to identify and address problems related to their deviate sexual behavior, and be willing to employ alternative thinking and behavior patterns. Inmates must also have a referral from their counselor.
Wyoming also runs an Hispanic Inmate Needs program that serves as a liaison between the Department and Hispanic inmates. Some of the functions of the program are in the areas of research, planning, recruitment, training, transitional services, community networking, materials development and evaluation. The goal is to assist the Department in meeting the needs of its Hispanic inmates when it comes to issues like health services, education, library services, counseling, mental health, pre- and post-release issues and ethnic awareness training.
Providing basic job skills and a work ethic
Besides its various educational and programming offerings, Wyoming offers various vocational and other programs aimed at providing inmates with the skills they need to find a job when they return to society. .
Among these programs is the farming program, which for many years was handled by Attica inmates. It was taken over by Wyoming shortly after the facility opened a little less than two decades ago. Local residents, however, continue to refer to the operation as the Attica Prison Farm.
Twenty-four inmates work the farm. Last year, one million quarts of milk were processed and distributed to 11 facilities, resulting in a substantial savings for state taxpayers. The 128 dairy cows produced 48,000 pounds of butter. Each cow produces an average 23,000 pounds of milk per year.
Milk isn’t the only focus of this busy farm. There are 118 heifers to be cared for and an average of 20 beef cattle. The beef is processed at Eastern for distribution throughout the system. The farm encompasses 300 acres that provide crops for animal feed; corn is planted on 160 acres and hay on the balance.
Wyoming will soon be involved in the Farm Employment Program, which will only be offered to inmates meeting specific criteria. Inmate candidates from facilities throughout the state will be transferred to the facility to participate in this 100- hour initiative. Training will include the curriculum from the NewYork State AgricultureWork Force Certification Program.
The program will be sponsored by DOCS and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets with cooperation from the state Department of Labor and Division of Parole.
Extensive vocational programming
Wyoming inmates also have the opportunity to receive instruction in the installation of air conditioning and refrigeration units, as well as diagnosis and repair of defective parts. Intensive practice is also provided on soldering, pipe cutting and threading – courses geared to entry-level industry jobs.
Wyoming also offers an auto mechanics course that ranges from training in basic preventative maintenance to accurate diagnosis and repair of complex problems. . . . The course is geared to provide the inmate with entry level skills as general auto mechanics or auto mechanic helpers . . . .
Upon completion of the course, inmates receive certificates from the state Department of Labor, the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the Ford Motor Company, asserting that they are qualified to work in the profession.
Several of the other vocational courses available to Wyoming inmates include:
Like many other facilities throughout the state,Wyoming refuses to operate in a vacuum despite its visibly secured perimeter. And for that, local residents are grateful.
Wyoming employees are a vital force in the local communities surrounding the prison. Among other things, they work as volunteer firefighters and sports coaches, serve on school, town and other local community boards and donate their time for the needy in the community. They also host fund-raisers for the needy and perform other tasks to benefit all in the region.
Staff also held a fund-raiser luncheon to benefit the family of a local Boy Scout who was struck by lightning while at camp in 2001 and had been living in a wheelchair at Monroe Community Hospital since then. The family needed the money to build an addition on their home. . . .
Mirroring their counterparts at other facilities, staff and inmates at Wyoming are involved in annual Make a Difference Day fund-raisers and other activities to help their less-fortunate neighbors. In 2002, inmates constructed a variety of wooden toys that were distributed to needy local children.
Wyoming is also one of several facilities in the state that offer the Department’s highly successful Youth Assistance Program (YAP). Unlike the “Scared Straight” program that’s long been a staple in prisons in other states, the Department’s youth program is designed to provide positive guidance and direction to at-risk youth who reflect a tendency toward becoming involved with the criminal justice system in a negative manner. . . .
In late 2000, at the request of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and theWestern New York Sierra Club, Wyoming staff and inmates embarked on a new mission to raise pheasant chicks for release into the wild on public grounds in western New York.
The initial phase entailed construction of a 48-by-80-foot wooden building on the facility grounds, to house the chicks until maturity. In the spring of 2001, and in subsequent springs, some 5,000 pheasants chicks at the ripe age of two or three days old are delivered to the facility by DEC officials. Inmates under the supervision of staff then raise the chicks until they reach the age of five or six months, at which time they are taken from the facility and released into the wild on public lands. . . .
Program assignments include outdoor work assignments in supervised community service crews working for local governments and non-profit groups. Projects include snow and debris removal, church repairs and fighting floods, ice storms and forest fires. If not for DOCS, many of those projects would not otherwise be completed. Since 1995, Wyoming crews have logged more than 110,000 work hours with more than 24,000 hours of security supervision.
Wyoming . . . is the home of the largest recycling program in the Department. The massive complex is comprised of five buildings situated on 10 acres. The facility services 14 prisons as well as seven communities and two school districts, resulting in a cost savings for state and local taxpayers. The center processes cardboard, tin cans, plastics, paper, food waste and wood waste. It handles some 5½ million tons of materials each year, one million pounds of which is cardboard.
The coordinator of this special unit is responsible for identifying distributors and often works with various brokers to secure contracts throughout the United States and the world.
The recycling center and the facility are developing a program to recycle unusable inmate clothing for the entire state.
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