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August 24, 09

NEWS / Key Element of Drug Law Reform Takes Effect as Older Offenders, General Population Inmates Transfer

The first hundred-plus offenders who have qualified for New York’s expanded Shock Incarceration Program, which was authorized by this year’s Rockefeller Drug Law reforms, are scheduled to be in place by this weekend, including more than 30 who have already begun the six-month military boot-camp style program.

Among other significant and comprehensive changes, the drug law reforms signed by Governor David A. Paterson in April make certain non-violent offenders in their 40s and/or serving time at a general confinement correctional facility and within three years of their earliest possible release eligible for Shock.

Shock is a highly successful program for certain non-violent offenders, mainly those convicted of drug offenses, who are in prison for the first time. It teaches self-discipline and features academic education, intensive substance abuse treatment, group and individual counseling, life skills education and physical training. Shock serves as an alternative to up to three years in prison and is also open to non-drug offenders.

As of today, the first 86 offenders from general confinement, who were successfully screened for Shock, are at the Department of Correctional Services’ Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in Chautauqua County. Thirteen have already begun the program; the other 73 are scheduled to start with a Lakeview platoon on August 17.

Another 80 general confinement inmates have been approved for Shock and will be transferred to Lakeview soon. Of the 166 total, 22 are 40 years of age or older. Additionally, 36 offenders age 40 or older have been sent to Lakeview directly from their entry into the State prison system. Eighteen of them have already begun the program.

DOCS operates four Shock Incarceration facilities that have a combined 1,328 beds staffed and available for Shock participants: Lakeview, with 700 beds for men and 120 for women; Monterey (Schuyler County), with 158 beds for men; Moriah (Essex County), with 200 beds for men; and Summit (Schoharie County), with 150 beds for men. Lakeview serves as the final screening facility for potential Shock participants.

The first 202 offenders entering Shock as a result of the program’s expansion will shave an average of 15 months off their sentences if they successfully complete the program. That translates to a savings to State taxpayers of more than $13 million, based upon the $54,600 average cost to incarcerate an offender for a year.

Before this year’s expansion, Shock participants could not be more than 39 years old when they started the program, could not have been more than three years from their court-set earliest release date and had to enter the program directly from their reception into the prison system. This year’s changes did not expand the number or type of crimes that allow an inmate to be Shock-eligible.

Shock’s upper age limit has been raised four other times since the program’s inception, when only offenders aged 16 through 23 could participate. But until now no general confinement inmates could transfer into Shock.

Commissioner Brian Fischer said: “This expansion of Shock Incarceration marks a significant milestone in New York’s successful efforts to reduce crime. Shock has been among the effective strategies in helping the State cut its crime rate by 35 percent over the past decade. It has helped reduce the number of non-violent offenders in the system and reduce the cost of incarceration while maintaining public safety.”

Shock has proven successful since its creation by the State Legislature in 1987. It has produced lower rates of recidivism (31 percent of Shock graduates return to prison within three years, compared with 40 percent of Shock-eligible non-participants), provided invaluable treatment and saved State taxpayers more than $1.3 billion directly so far by reducing the need for traditional prison space for the program’s nearly 40,000 graduates. Shock work crews contributed more than 87,000 inmate hours in community service last year performing work for municipalities and not-for-profit organizations.

National independent research groups have rated New York’s Shock program the best in the United States. Balancing discipline and treatment, Shock includes 675 hours of intensive alcohol and substance abuse treatment, life skills and group counseling, 12 hours per week of academic classes, drill instruction, physical training and work crews. Shock inmates passed the GED (high school equivalency diploma exam) at a rate of 92.1 percent, compared with 58 percent of New York’s general public, in the year ending June 30, 2008.

The 14-year-old Willard Drug Treatment campus in Seneca County, which runs a 90-day treatment readiness and relapse intervention program for parole violators and others sentenced to Willard by the courts, is based on the Shock model.

This year’s Shock expansion also authorized courts to order eligible drug defendants directly into Shock Incarceration and directed DOCS to offer an alternative, six-month placement for any court-ordered Shock defendant who requires a degree of medical care or mental health care not available at a Shock facility.


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