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Manzanita
10-26-2004, 08:35 PM
Fulton Correctional Facility
1511 Fulton Avenue
Bronx, New York 10457-8398

(718) 583-8000

(Bronx County)

Minimum Male

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Sharing in Bronx neighborhood's renaissance

Fulton
On November 17, 2000, local dignitaries joined current and former Fulton employees at a banquet to celebrate the facility's 25th anniversary as a state correctional facility.The facility is located at 1511 Fulton Ave. in the borough and county of the Bronx. It took its name from the avenue, which was named for the American inventor and engineer Robert Fulton. The building now occupied by DOCS work release inmates was completed in 1907, precisely 100 years after the Clermont, Fulton's steamboat, went from New York City to Albany - a four-day trip by sail - in just 32 hours, opening new commercial and settlement vistas to the young nation.

In the 93 years since the seven-story brick structure went up, Fulton Avenue has seen demographic shifts and reversals of fortunes. The neighborhood declined after World War II. Property values plummeted, and the streets were so lawless that local police called their precinct "Fort Apache, inspiring the successful 1981 movie. But the neighborhood is enjoying a renaissance. With urban renewal, new three- and four-story houses sprang up in place of burnt and boarded-up wrecks, while the rubble-strewn lots of seedier days were transformed into pleasant, grassy mini-courts. In the midst of this new development, Crotona Park - located on Fulton Avenue directly opposite the facility - brings tennis and swimming, music, arts fairs and a touch of country to the community.

The building itself has undergone change. It opened as a social and meeting center for the Bronx Episcopal Church and then, after 1920, served similar needs as a Young Men's Hebrew Association. In 1950, it became a nursing home. The state purchased the property for a drug rehabilitation center in 1969. Six years later, the site was taken over by DOCS as part of its new community corrections program.

Episcopal Church House

In the latter years of the 19th century, successful New Yorkers were Already fleeing densely populated Manhattan Island for the dream of a better life in outlying areas. Among those who settled in the Bronx were large numbers of Episcopalians. They built new churches, but then, needing a community center and a wholesome place for their young people (to counter the draw of "dangerous dance halls"), J.P. Morgan, W. K. Vanderbilt and other parishioners contributed to the building of a "church house" at the southwest corner of Crotona Park.

Excavation commenced in February, 1906, and construction of the Church House was completed the following year For more than a decade, the center hummed with activity seven days a week. There were dances, games and gymnastics in the large gymnasium on the top floor Music and drama were presented to audiences of more than a thousand people in the ground floor auditorium. Social workers used the center as their base, while community groups used the center's meeting rooms. At one special meeting in 1911, representatives from 300 civic organizations gathered to discuss a proposal (adopted by the state Legislature in 1914) to establish the Bronx as New York's 62nd county.

Crotona Y

Despite the initial flurry of activity, the Fulton Avenue Church House would be obsolete in just a dozen years. Jewish immigrants were rapidly moving into the area, while the Episcopalians moved to other sections of the Bronx. The Church House was now inconveniently located and - with the construction of a fully-equipped YMCA a mile away - it was no longer necessary. By 1920, nine of 10 families in the Crotona Park neighborhood were Jewish, and the property made the indicated switch; it was sold to the Bronx Jewish Institute for $177,500. After short stints as quarters for the Institute and then for the Jewish Education Association, the structure became the Young Men's-Young Women's Hebrew Association.

Over the next 30 years, the YM-YWHA would follow the course charted by its predecessor Into the 1930's, it was a bustling hub of community cultural and social life. A synagogue with folding chairs that could be removed for dances and "public weddings" was on the ground floor A newsletter reported the activities of numerous groups and clubs (the director and playwright Moss Hart was a member of the drama club). The Y had a bowling alley, a swimming pool, a running track around the top of the gymnasium wall and a solarium on the roof.

Then, the one-two punch of the Great Depression and World War II scattered the membership base. In 1950, the Jewish Y moved to new quarters on the Grand Concourse (the Bronx's main thoroughfare) and the Fulton Avenue facility closed.

The building, described as "stately" in the 1920's but now disparaged as "a facade of crumbling bricks," was not vacant for long. From the early 1950's to 1967, it was a nursing home, first called the Crotona House Sanitarium and later the Fulton Nursing home. During this period, the basement swimming pool was filled in, being of no use to the elderly, infirm residents. The high-ceilinged auditorium and gymnasium were also superfluous now: new floors were laid at their midpoints, taking 1511 Fulton Ave. from five stories to seven without adding an inch in height.

Drug rehab center years

In the same year that the nursing home closed (1967), the Narcotic Addiction Control Commission (NACC) was established to direct the state's efforts - ongoing since the 1950's and redoubled under Governor Rockefeller - to curb heroin use and trafficking. In addition to a public education program, NACC would provide in-patient treatment in "rehabilitation centers." Treatment at the centers was compulsory in lieu of jail or prison terms; NACC commitments were for either three years (for an addict charged with a crime) or five (for an addict convicted of a crime).

In 1967, NACC purchased the 1511 Fulton Ave. premises. The purchase price was $1.2 million, but before the facility could open, another $2.8 million would be laid out for renovations and for gates, screens and other security equipment.

The Fulton Rehabilitation Center opened in 1969. Its place in the NACC system was very similar to its role today under DOCS. Fulton was classified as a "community-based center," in distinction to more secure "intramural treatment centers" (such as Arthur Kill and Woodbourne) operated by NACC. Fulton's residential "clients" (as NACC called the inmates) were involved full-time in programs designed to break their drug dependency and to equip them for law-abiding living: group and individual counseling, academic education, recreation and vocational training courses in photography, carpentry, printing and tailoring.

An "aftercare" program was analogous to parole. Release from the residential program to aftercare was discretionary with NACC managers; the released client was supervised for the remainder of his term of commitment by narcotic parole officers. He would often be required to return to the facility for "day-care services" school and drug counseling as well as employment assistance.

NACC gives way to community corrections

Very early on, the state lost faith in NACC's institutional program. The Rockefeller drug laws were enacted in 1973, and addicts formerly committed to NACC were instead receiving long prison sentences. The drug agency had also come under severe criticism for waste, mismanagement and failure to rehabilitate its clients or make a difference in street crime. Two name changes (to the Drug Addiction Control Commission in 1973 and then to the Office of Drug Abuse Services in 1975) did not prevent the scandal from becoming a thorn in Rockefeller's side during his 1976 run for the vice presidency. The state began to phase out its drug rehabilitation centers.

Simultaneously - and largely as a result of the Rockefeller drug laws and the closing of the rehabilitation centers - the inmate count in the prisons was beginning a prolonged climb. The rapidly closing drug agency facilities were taken over by DOCS.

Though DOCS would take beds wherever it could, Fulton's location fit the Department's desire to get in step with the national call for "community- based corrections." The community- based corrections movement - whose distinguishing features were restoration of the offender's family ties, work and educational release, and interaction with community social service agencies in minimum-security settings - gained momentum in the turbulent 1960's, and achieved official approval with the influential 1967 report of the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. In New York, work and educational release were authorized by the Legislature in 1969.

Immediately following the 1971 riot at Attica, a committee of the state Senate renewed the call for residential treatment facilities. Rochester was the first to open, in 1973. Bayview and Edgecombe opened the next year, followed by Parkside in January of 1975.

In November, 1975, the Fulton property, its superintendent (Luis G. Samuel) and nearly the entire workforce were transferred to DOCS. They received a two-week orientation from staff of the Albany Training Academy.

Because community corrections was a new idea, it took several years before Fulton Correctional Facility settled into a stable role. The first inmates were women in traditional general confinement programming: education, counseling, pre-release services and vocational training in tailoring, cosmetology, woodworking and printing.

The next fall, DOCS sent 35 male work release inmates to Fulton to see whether "coed" housing might humanize the correctional environment. At first, there were a few mixed social activities: picnics in the yard (now a parking lot) and one - and only one - dance. These raucous affairs were soon abandoned and the experiment was all but dead. The inmates never programmed together Separation of the sexes was inherent in their classifications, with the work release males usually outside the premises while the women remained inside. Control and security considerations dictated separate dining and housing (men occupied the sixth and seventh floors), for which the building was not physically suited. The men were removed to Bayview in December, 1977.

Several months prior to the men's removal, Stay'n'Out - a privately run drug abuse treatment program - started its long association with DOCS. There was no space at 1511 Fulton Ave., but use of the top floor of the nearby Melrose Rehabilitation Center; Stay'n'Out inmates were housed and programmed there in what was called the "Fulton Annex."

In the summer of 1978, DOCS again shuffled populations among what was by then a sizable network of community-based facilities in New York City. Bayview switched from male to female inmates and received Fulton's females. Fulton now began to provide pre-release and transitional services to approximately 125 male ODOP's (a parole acronym for "open date, own program - men approved for parole whose release was on hold pending finalization of housing and employment arrangements).

By 1980, the prison census had risen to the point where the system could no longer afford the luxury of Fulton's ODOP specialization. Fulton now joined the other city facilities as a work release base. Its population quickly rose, from 125 to 227 by the end of the year, straining the building's physical capacity. This was just the beginning: for the next 15 years, the struggle to pull in still more inmates would be the Fulton story. DOCS was forced to use work release not as a stage in a controlled transition to freedom, but as a means to remove inmates from general confinement to make way for new commitments.

To house more work release inmates, Fulton was double-bunked in 1983, bringing its count to 400. Two years after that, Fulton "double-encumbered" its beds (rotating inmates between nights in the facility and nights at home on furlough), and the count hovered at around 650. The final escalation was day reporting, bringing Fulton's count through the early 1990's to over 900 inmates. And while the extra 300 or so day reporters did not take up beds, they made demands on staff time. They also added to congestion in the processing area. Many evenings - to the neighbors' alarm and annoyance - the line of inmates waiting outside to be processed back into the facility stretched around the corner of the block.

Fulton stabilizes with work release reform

The scrambling came to a sudden halt on January 1, 1995. Newly-elected Governor Pataki took immediate steps to end work release for murderers, sex offenders and other violent felons whose presence on the streets posed a threat to community safety. The Governor's insistence on responsible selectivity restored the legislative intent of the work release program as a transitional step to final release.

New approvals dropped immediately. Participants approved before the tighter selection standards were "grand-fathered" and allowed to attrition out.

Over the next five years, Fulton's in-house census steadily dropped down to approximately 285 today, and day reporters to a manageable 60.

Most of Fulton's inmates are in work release - filing tax returns, paying room and board to DOCS, contributing to the support of their families and in many cases putting money aside against the day of parole. In addition, inmates also perform many volunteer services in the community. They routinely clear sidewalks, crosswalks and fire hydrants of snow, for example.

New inmates on job search status are expected to work several days a week on community service crews. A six-man crew performs maintenance and clean-up duties on the New England section of the New York State Thruway.

Suggestions for projects are solicited from the Fulton Community Advisory Board. The board, recently reactivated with an expanded membership, has also been helpful in Fulton's efforts to recruit community agencies and volunteers to come into the facility.

Seventy-three beds at Fulton are set aside for the relapse program. During most of the 30 years of temporary release in New York state, participants testing positive for drugs or alcohol were forthwith shipped back upstate to general confinement facilities. Beginning in 1994, under DOCS' new relapse program, a backslider's work release status may be suspended, rather than revoked, to allow him to participate in an intensive 60-day ASAT program focusing on recognition of warning signs and relapse prevention techniques.

Initially, each work release facility had its own relapse unit, but over time, as the work release numbers shrunk, the individual units were no longer necessary. In April, Fulton was designated to operate the relapse program for all New York City male work release facilities.

With the recent construction of a ramp at the entrance to the processing area and the installation of special telephone equipment for the hearing-impaired, Fulton was also designated as the primary facility for city work release inmates with disabilities.

The smaller population combined with the computerization of work release processing has serendipitously enhanced in-house programming at Fulton, by freeing counselors to counsel. Programs today include alcohol and substance abuse treatment, individual and group counseling,job search and resume preparation classes, family counseling and money management.

For many years, the crowding and confusion inside Fulton echoed the disorder on the streets outside. The neighborhood is now bright and hopeful, and its transformation has been mirrored behind the institution doors. Fulton today is a clean, quiet, orderly facility with high staff and inmate morale.

As it completes 25 years with DOCS, the facility carries on 151 Fulton Ave.'s 93-year old tradition of public service.