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NY state to add rape prevention staff

Complies with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003

By James M. Odato
Times Union

ALBANY, NY — New York’s corrections department is adding 22 assistant deputy superintendents even as it undergoes another round of prison closures.

The new positions, paying $66,914 to $84,581 a year, will help the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision comply with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, state officials say.

However, the act does not require states to hire anyone, said Donn Rowe, president of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association. The hiring of new administrators, he said, is particularly galling since DOCCS announced last week it plans to close four more prisons, including Mount McGregor in Saratoga County.

He said the law’s requirements, or standards, were created in May 2012 and did not specify how the states needed to comply.

Thomas Mailey, a spokesman for DOCCS, said the standards did require assigning rape elimination duties to personnel with sufficient time and authority to coordinate and comply with the objectives of reducing prison rapes. Each of the 22 new hires will be charged with keeping track of activities about two or three facilities.

“Those hired will have an understanding of security operations, medical and mental health services, programming and counseling services, and administrative services,” Mailey said. “They will develop ongoing relationships with community hospitals, rape crisis centers and other providers, and they will play a critical role for the governor in the required annual certification of the state’s compliance with the national PREA standards.”

Rowe said he doesn’t see the need for the positions, since prison rape is not a “huge issue” and DOCCS has ample management staff.

“With all the cuts we’ve seen, with all the concessions we agreed to within contract negotiations ... and our members have had their duties expanded and expanded and expanded over and over again, this is incredible,” Rowe said.

The state expects to save $30.5 million a year by closing Mount McGregor, Monterey Shock, Butler and Chateaugay facilities due in part to a prison population that has fallen to 54,600 inmates.

State Sen. Betty Little said she is encouraging more discussion about the closure plan to see if “double-bunking” could be discontinued and other alternatives can be found to keep some of the prisons open. The Queensbury Republican said she was unaware of the plan to hire assistant deputies.

The standards for PREA — aimed at preventing, detecting and responding to prison rape — call for prison systems to use their “best efforts” to dedicate staff to the issue, and assumes that will cost on average $55,000 per prison and $50,000 per jail each year. Failure to comply will result in penalties of up to 5 percent of federal funding.