Adds certification and minimum work as a optician, hazardous materials removal worker, sign language interpreter, or worker in the puppies behind bars program to significant programmatic accomplishments for limited credit time allowances for inmates.
Ayes (35): Adams, Addabbo, Aubertine, Breslin, Diaz, Dilan, Duane, Espada, Foley, Hassell-Thomps, Huntley, Johnson C, Klein, Krueger, Kruger, Leibell, Montgomery, Onorato, Oppenheimer, Parker, Peralta, Perkins, Sampson, Savino, Schneiderman, Serrano, Seward, Smith, Squadron, Stachowski, Stavisky, Stewart-Cousins, Thompson, Valesky, Volker
Nays (26): Alesi, Bonacic, DeFrancisco, Farley, Flanagan, Fuschillo, Golden, Griffo, Hannon, Johnson O, Lanza, Larkin, LaValle, Libous, Little, Marcellino, Maziarz, McDonald, Nozzolio, Padavan, Ranzenhofer, Robach, Saland, Skelos, Winner, Young
Excused (1): Morahan
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the correction law, in relation to significant programmatic accomplishments for limited credit time allowances
PURPOSE OF THE BILL: This bill would amend the Correction Law (CL) to add four new advanced skills programs to the list of significant program accomplishments that would enable an inmate to qualify for the six-month limited credit time allowance program.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section 1 of the bill would amend CL § 803-b(1)(c) to add four new advanced skills programs as bases for the potential award of limited credit time: the Division of Correctional Industries (Corcraft) Optical Program, the Corcraft Asbestos Abatement Program, the sign language interpreter program, and the Puppies Behind Bars Program.
EXISTING LAW: Currently, CL § 803-b allows certain inmates, who are not eligible to earn merit time pursuant to Correction Law section 803(1)(d), to earn a possible six-month credit toward their sentence if they maintain a positive disciplinary record, have not filed a frivolous lawsuit, and complete one of five possible significant programmatic accomplishments: two years of college programming, a masters of professional studies degree, two years participation as an inmate program associate, a certification from the Department of Labor for an apprenticeship program, or two years of work as an inmate hospice aid.
Under § 803-b, all eligible inmates with a conditional release date who meet the criteria by successfully completing one of the five programs are authorized to be released six months prior to their conditional release date. All eligible inmates who are serving sentences with maximum terms of life who met the criteria by successfully completing one of the five programs are accorded the potential to be granted discretionary release on parole six months prior to their actual parole eligibility date. For these inmates, release is discretionary, riot mandatory.
No inmate convicted of murder in the first degree or a sex offense defined in article one hundred thirty of the penal law, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit any such offense, is eligible for a limited credit time allowance.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: This is a new bill.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT: The limited credit time allowance law was enacted in April of 2009.
The original concept for a limited credit time allowance law was based upon the work of the eleven-member Commission on Sentencing Reform, which was established in March of 2007 by Executive Order.
The Commission heard several presentations and reviewed a substantial amount of data on the DOCS merit time program, and discussed the expansion of traditional merit time in detail in both its initial and final reports.
The Commission noted that maintaining safe correctional institutions is directly related to the balanced ability to punish negative behavior and poor program participation and reward positive behavior and good program participation. A correctional system that disproportionately relies on one approach to the detriment of the other will not be nearly as safe or successful as a system that relies on a balanced approach.
The Commission's Final Report also noted the following.
Current law does not provide a means by which offenders serving a determinate or indeterminate sentence for violent felony offenses, or offenders serving indeterminate sentences for non-drug Class A-I felonies, can earn any type of merit reduction from their sentences. As a general rule, many of these offenders tend to receive much longer sentences than the typical non-violent inmates who currently qualify for merit time. However, there is no institutional program to reward exceptional programming and efforts by these inmates...Undeniably, many violent felony offenders have committed egregious criminal acts that would argue against eligibility for a merit time release. By the same token, DOCS' experts point out that a number of these offenders have demonstrated over a span of many years, a deep sense of remorse, recognition of the harm they have caused, a strong determination to reform their lives and a desire to serve the common good by becoming law-abiding citizens. In some instances, these same offenders have made themselves available in peer counseling programs at DOCS to counsel young, at-risk individuals from making the same mistakes they made in their own lives...On balance, the Commission finds that affording a merit time incentive to incarcerated offenders with a past history of violence for participation in programs likely to lead to a change in criminogenic attitudes and better prepare them to lead law-abiding lives after release is a positive public safety measure that should be implemented in New York. Furthermore, the merit criteria requiring that such offenders also refrain from any serious disciplinary infractions will help to foster a safer correctional environment for the more than 31,000 men and women who work within DOCS' facilities, as well as the under-custody population of more than 60,000 inmates...The Commission believes that in order to achieve the desired public safety outcome, the requirements for an expanded merit time program for offenders with a history of violent behavior must be rigorous and designed to promote life-changing behaviors. In order for an inmate to be eligible for the contemplated benefit, the Commission recommends that the program criteria should be significantly more demanding than the present merit time criteria for non-violent offenders...The Commission believes that the creation of a limited, but mean ingful, merit time program for the State's highest risk offenders will significantly enhance institutional safety in New York's prisons and improve the chances that eligible offenders will live as law-abiding citizens upon release to the community.
The FY 2009-10 budget adopted all of the Commission's recommendations on this subject, including the five current significant program accomplishments that are listed in Correction Law Section 803-b. The four new proposed programs that are identified in this bill would also satisfy the Commission's charge that such programs be exceptional, rigorous and designed to promote life-changing behaviors.
The Corcraft Optical Program is located at Wallkill Correctional Facility. Under this program, inmate participants grind lenses that are used to fill orders for eyeglasses for the inmate population and for Medicaid recipients in the community. The test for optician is offered once a year in May at Wallkill, by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). The fee for taking the test is $150, for which the inmate is responsible. Certification is recognized throughout the United States in optical establishments. An inmate who leaves prison with an ABO certification has his chances of obtaining gainful employment significantly enhanced. Once it is obtained, such certification is good for a three year period. In order to renew the certification, the individual must have twelve credits of continuing education classes. According to a representative with the ABO, the passing rate for this challenging examination at Wallkill is higher than the national average.
The Corcraft Asbestos Abatement Program initially requires inmate participants to undergo a 32-hour training program. Successful inmates then receive an asbestos handling certificate from the Department of Labor. Ultimately, this certificate can be converted to a license as a civilian handler. Inmate participants in this program work as asbestos handlers in the title of either Hazardous Materials Removal Worker or Group Leader. Inmate asbestos abatement crews are assigned to asbestos removal projects at buildings in DOCS as well as outside buildings of the State or political subdivision of the State. This experience is very useful for the pursuit of gainful employment by inmate participants upon their release from prison.
The program to qualify inmates as sign language interpreters is located at Wende Correctional Facility. Interested inmates with positive institutional records who are accepted into the program must take the course curriculum of Signing Naturally Level I and II. This requires that they have an extensive vocabulary, be knowledgeable of sentence structure, and learn about other forms of non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and body language. The curriculum also includes an in-cell study component where the inmates learn about Deaf Culture and History.
Upon completion of the curriculum for Signing Naturally Levels I and II, the actual Interpreter Training begins. The inmate must study the Code of Ethics of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, and must also study different interpreting situations, problems and solutions. Writ ten tests are then administered and the inmate must obtain a score of 80% or better to pass.
If the inmate passes these tests, he is then eligible to take the Minimum Competency Screening Process (MCSP) Performance Examination, which consists of three videotaped segments. The inmate must do voice to sign interpretation on the first segment, and voice to sign and sign to voice on the remaining segments. If the inmate then passes the MCSP Performance Exam, he is awarded an MCSP Certificate by DOCS which will allow him to perform as an inmate interpreter within the DOCS system. The inmate must then sign a contract and commit to working for one year as an interpreter.
The Puppies Behind Bars Program prepares inmates at Bedford Hills, Fishkill, Otisville and Mid-Orange Correctional Facilities to become puppy raisers, handlers and trainers. The program is operated in coordination with a privately funded, volunteer organization that relies on donations and private funding. The goal of the program is to pair puppies with incarcerated individuals, who will then train them to become potential guide dogs and service dogs for disabled individuals in the community.
An eligible inmate must first be screened and then undergo an intensive training program before having a puppy assigned to him or her. The training sessions include lessons and homework assignments which continue for the duration of the program. An inmate who successfully completes the lessons earns a Puppies Behind Bars certificate and also qualifies for the vocational job title, Animal Caretaker. Inmates who wish to continue their studies can take additional courses to become pet groomers and trainers.
The puppies arrive at the correctional facility when they are approximately eight weeks old and require everything from socialization, to house breaking and basic commands. They remain in the program for about sixteen months, when they are then tested for future service, which includes serving as companion dogs for veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. During their stay with the inmates, the puppies are also socialized by community volunteers, so the inmates also learn to interact with members of the community who take the dogs out for weekends to expose them to a variety of experiences.
The inmates acquire a unique skill and develop confidence and a level of maturity as they learn to care for another living creature with the ultimate goal of enabling a disabled individual to function independently. From the puppies, the inmates receive unconditional love. From those individuals who are ultimately helped, the inmates often receive enormous gratitude. This program has received considerable national and local attention in the media and serves as a model for other programs which seek to pair incarcerated individuals with animals.
FISCAL IMPACT: It is anticipated that there will be some limited, budgetary savings of approximately $100,000, by virtue of some number of inmates qualifying
for the limited credit time allowance who would not otherwise have qualified.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This bill would take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 7864 IN SENATE May 18, 2010 ___________Introduced by Sen. HASSELL-THOMPSON -- (at request of the Department of Correctional Services) -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction AN ACT to amend the correction law, in relation to significant program- matic accomplishments for limited credit time allowances THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Paragraph (c) of subdivision 1 of section 803-b of the correction law, as added by section 4 of part L of chapter 56 of the laws of 2009, is amended to read as follows: (c) "significant programmatic accomplishment" means that the inmate: (i) participates in no less than two years of college programming; or (ii) obtains a masters of professional studies degree; or (iii) successfully participates as an inmate program associate for no less than two years; or (iv) receives a certification from the state department of labor for his or her successful participation in an apprenticeship program; or (v) successfully works as an inmate hospice aid for a period of no less than two years; OR (VI) SUCCESSFULLY WORKS IN THE DIVISION OF CORRECTIONAL INDUSTRIES' OPTICAL PROGRAM FOR NO LESS THAN TWO YEARS AND RECEIVES A CERTIFICATION AS AN OPTICIAN FROM THE AMERICAN BOARD OF OPTICIANRY; OR (VII) RECEIVES AN ASBESTOS HANDLING CERTIFICATE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR UPON SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF THE TRAINING PROGRAM AND THEN WORKS IN THE DIVISION OF CORRECTIONAL INDUSTRIES' ASBESTOS ABATEMENT PROGRAM AS A HAZARDOUS MATERIALS REMOVAL WORKER OR GROUP LEADER FOR NO LESS THAN EIGHTEEN MONTHS; OR (VIII) SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETES THE COURSE CURRICULUM AND PASSES THE MINIMUM COMPETENCY SCREENING PROCESS PERFORMANCE EXAMINATION FOR SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER, AND THEN WORKS AS A SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER FOR DEAF INMATES FOR NO LESS THAN ONE YEAR; OR (IX) SUCCESSFULLY WORKS IN THE PUPPIES BEHIND BARS PROGRAM FOR A PERI- OD OF NO LESS THAN TWO YEARS. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD16000-02-0