View Full Version : Hale Creek ASACTC


Manzanita
10-26-2004, 08:43 PM
Hale Creek ASACTC
279 Maloney Road
Johnstown, New York 12095

(518) 736-2094 (Fulton County)

Inmate Mail:
P.O. Box 950, Zip 12095

Medium Male

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"Clinic, school and work camp"

Hale Creek
Except for the razor ribbon, it might be taken for the Betty Ford Center or any other of the thousands of generally similar chemical dependency treatment programs now operating in the United States. All such programs use a mix of professional counseling and peer support, and all aim for recovery through lifelong abstinence. Hale Creek uses modern methods in pursuit of the same goal, but also has some features not found in its free-world counterparts.

The most obvious difference is that Hale Creek's clients are serving prison terms: no off-grounds passes are issued here. Another difference is the length of stay. The norm at privately-run clinics is 30 days (the maximum covered by most insurance plans), but Hale Creek's inmates spend a full six months in treatment. And there is a difference in what is expected of the residents. While Betty Ford's clients do not scrub the toilets or cram for the GED, Hale Creek's inmates do that and more; work assignments and academic schooling are part of the routine here.

Take away the fence, and this could be a nicely-maintained apartment complex in a rural setting. The putty and pale-yellow steel structures - an administration building, several maintenance and utility buildings and 10 inmate housing and program buildings - are all one-story with gently sloping roofs. The facility is attractively landscaped, with flower beds at the front of each housing unit and small vegetable gardens at the sides or in the back. Sidewalks and cement walkways intersect and cut across the lawns to the buildings. The grounds include a paved basketball court and a recreation field with a softball diamond in back of the buildings.

This clinic, school and work camp's located on a small (3 acre) tract of land outside Johnstown, in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains about 50 miles northwest of Albany. The land is on the corner of, and once was part of, a large property containing the Tryon complex, a residential program for troubled children operated by the Office of Children and Family Services. The neighboring agencies have an excellent relationship. Hale Creek Superintendent Hazel Lewis is on Tryon's advisory board, inmates do groundswork at Tryon and the institutions share resources wherever possible.

Hale Creek applied for accreditation in 1992, and was the first institution in the United States to be judged as an "adult correctional treatment program" against a new set of standard just developed by the American Correctional Association.

The auditors gave Hale Creek perfect scores in every category. It has been reaccredited every three years since that achievement.

The rise of prison treatment programs

At 500 beds, Hale Creek is the largest of seven DOCS facilities devoted exclusively to chemical dependency treatment. Until recently, such facilities did not exist in the correctional system because, until a couple of decades ago, only a handful of the state's prisoners were serving sentences for drug offenses.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) programs were introduced in New York prisons in the 1940's. Through the '50's and '60's, small drug abuse counseling programs were scattered among the prisons. That often was solely dependent on the initiative of staff member, usually an Officer or counselor, who was able to persuade his superiors to set aside space and time for the program. Such efforts did not become a departmental priority, however, until the late 1970's, when three developments converged:

First, the Attica riot of 1971 gave impetus to prison rehabilitative programs in general.

Second, the Rockefeller drug laws of 1973 greatly increased the number of addicts and drug criminals serving prison sentences.

Lastly, the Drug Abuse Control Commission (DACC) closed its drug rehabilitation centers, eliminating the state's only institutional program for drug offenders, who were now receiving prison sentences under the Rockefeller laws.

DOCS officials recognized that untreated addicts were not only a sure bet to recidivate, but also, with their irrepressible smuggling propensities, a prison management problem. With the assistance of former DACC counselors who had transitioned to positions with DOCS, group counseling programs were set up at Woodbourne. Mt. McGregor also started a program and set aside an entire housing unit to provide a "therapeutic community" environment for participants. DOCS contracted with a private sector provider to establish "Stay'n Out" therapeutic communities at Arthur Kill and Bayview in 1977. The next year, DOCS initiated training programs for counselors from other facilities.

By 1984, DOCS had expanded its chemical dependency treatment programs to 20 facilities. From facility-initiated, independent programs, the effort had become system-wide and was coordinated from Central Office in Albany. The program was called Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment (ASAT).

New York's next step was a concentrated version of ASAT in dedicated facilities operated as therapeutic communities for specially selected populations. The Comprehensive Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment (CASAT) program was authorized by the Legislature in 1989. CASAT is a three-phase program consisting of (1) six months in Hale Creek or another CASAT facility, (2) six months in community treatment under work release or day reporting status and (3) continued aftercare in the community under parole supervision.

For Phase I, the legislation called for six new 200-bed dedicated treatment facilities officially known as Alcohol and Substance Abuse Correctional Treatment Centers but usually called "annexes" (the ASACTC acronym is unpronounceable). The first CASAT annex was opened in Chateaugay in August, 1990. Others, including Hale Creek, opened in the next few months.

Opening and growth

With the state prison population increasing by about 400 inmates a month, the new facility in Johnstown was under enormous pressure to open. Construction was rushed as quickly as possible, and on October 4, 1990, Superintendent Lewis announced that the prison was open effective that morning. The first inmates did not arrive for another week and a halt, but October 4 stuck and is the date used to celebrate anniversaries.

It was originally called Johnstown, but the residents of this small city were ambivalent about the new correctional facility in their midst, particularly in view of persistent rumors that the state intended to add a full-sized medium across the road. After two years, the community asked DOCS to consider a name change. It is now called Hale Creek after a tiny stream that runs nearby.

Construction continued for two months after the opening, and hard hats were everywhere. To distinguish the inmates from the construction workers, who often wore pants of the same green shade as inmate issue, staff ordered the inmates to move in columns whenever they were outdoors. Though no longer required to do so, the habit is ingrained, and inmates still march when going from one building to another

Three housing units were built, each divided down the middle for six "sides." Five of the sides were 40-bed dormitories for a capacity of 200 inmates; one side of Building 6 was reserved for staff meetings, the Aggression Replacement Training (ART) program and evening recreation.

ASAT counseling sessions are held in a housing unit.

In February, 1993, the state's first relapse program (a short stint of intensive drug and alcohol treatment for temporary release inmates caught using alcohol or drugs) was placed here. Ten beds were added to each dorm, bringing the population to 250. (The Hale Creek and other relapse programs were later relocated to New York City, home community to most DOCS inmates.)

In 1994, with the number of sentenced drug offenders still increasing, the Legislature voted to expand the program. New CASAT facilities were authorized, and Hale Creek's capacity was doubled to 500. The next year three new housing units, identical in construction to the original three, opened on the southeast corner of the property. The new units are called "uptown" and the original units are known as "the projects."

CASAT was in great demand for two primary reasons: its demonstrable success as a treatment program, and because participants were automatically sent to day reporting after six months, freeing up bed space. To assure the maximum utilization of CASAT facilities, "feeder" units were set up at several facilities, including Hale Creek. The feeder units conducted a special review of potential eligibles for the purpose of identifying suitable inmates and transferring them to a CASAT annex as soon as they became legally eligible.

After several years of steady growth, CASAT numbers fell off. In fulfillment of his pledge to enhance public safety, Governor Pataki issued an Executive Order in 1995 prohibiting the participation of violent felons in temporary release. Since inmates are in temporary release status during Phase II of CASAT, the narrowed temporary release eligibility criteria eliminated a large class of inmates from the CASAT pool. At the same time, other alternatives began to draw from the same well. The Willard Drug Treatment Campus opened in 1995, and a unit for inmates convicted of DWI offenses opened at Gowanda in 1996.

At present, approximately half of Hale Creek's population is CASAT. There has been no change in the facility program or operations, however The remaining beds are occupied by inmates with documented histories of substance abuse who are placed in the Department's ASAT program. The only difference is that the ASAT inmates do not automatically go on to work release or day reporting, as do CASAT completers.

The therapeutic community

The dormitory is the basic "family" unit around which the Hale Creek therapeutic community is organized. There are 10 dormitories with 50 beds apiece.

Each dorm sits down as a group twice a day, after breakfast and before dinner, in "community meetings." The meetings, lasting from 15 minutes to half an hour, serve several purposes. They are for business and general communications (electing ILC representatives, for example, or announcing changes in the day's schedule or welcoming new members) but their main purpose is group bonding, a crucial element in therapeutic community workings. Group bonding permits peer support and mutual encouragement as the members struggle together on the difficult road called recovery. Each meeting opens with a recitation of the CASAT mission statement. There is usually a motivational presentation, perhaps a "thought for the day" or a poem. Accomplishments are praised: an inmate may have passed the GED or completed a unit of pre-release. Birthdays are acknowledged with applause.

Though the inmates accentuate the positive, they are not blind to the negative. During the meetings, inmates publicly admit their "regressions:" doubts, family problems, fears of relapse, negativity itself. Others may suggest strategies for getting past troublesome feelings and episodes. The meetings, with their relative formality and ritual civility, are also a good place to air grievances and safely address inevitable group living problems of the kind present in every family (someone keeps forgetting to take his clothes out of the dryer, someone else is not doing his share of the chores).

One three-hour module every day, mornings for some inmates, afternoons for the others, is devoted to formal chemical dependency treatment. The "E & C" (education and counseling) module is divided roughly 50/50 between group counseling and instruction. The instruction, provided through lectures, films and discussions, amounts to a thorough course on addiction: its nature and causes (biological, environmental and personality), its connection with criminal thinking and lifestyles, addiction as a progressive disease, the mysterious and insidious phenomenon of "denial," physical and psychiatric consequences of alcohol and drug abuse, its destructive effect on the addict and his family, recovery techniques and dynamics, early recovery hurdles, and causes, signs and avoidance of relapse.

AA/NA reach out to the outside recovering population

AA and NA (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) are part of the program. Both are international organizations of recovering persons who find strength and support by staying in touch with others like themselves. After formal treatment - at Betty Ford or Hale Creek - the only aftercare available to most people will be AA or NA. (Either will do: chemical dependency is chemical dependency, the philosophies and rituals of AA and NA are the same, and most people under about the age of 40 call themselves "cross-addicted" anyway).

To encourage participation after release, inmates are introduced to AA/NA customs and culture while they are still in prison.

During the evening, AA/NA meetings are held on the grounds; each dorm attends one meeting a week. The meeting are frequently attended by outside AA or NA people. There is a large recovering population in Fulton, Montgomery, Schenectady and Albany counties, and Hale Creek has long-standing relationships with this community. Recruitment of volunteers is not a difficult sell: it is a strong AA/NA conviction that one of the best ways to stay sober is to help others do the same.

To further ingrain the AA/NA habit, small groups of furlough-eligible inmates in the final weeks of treatment are occasionally taken by counselors to AA in Johnstown, to see for themselves that they have no reason to be nervous about outside groups. The format is the same everywhere. There are no surprises, no applications to fill out, no questions to answer "Anonymous" means just that: privacy is important to these people. Alcoholics and addicts are not judgmental, they don't pry and they don't tell tales.

A couple of times a year, outsiders converge en masse at Hale Creek for day-long "speakers' jams." These are big pep rallies, with 30-40 recovering alcoholics and addicts, many of them ex- offenders, giving motivational talks to the population in an upbeat, festive atmosphere. These sessions are a "shot in the arm for the inmates. They are a break in the routine and a chance to hear success stories, engagingly and humorously told by people who have lived both sides of the fence and found that life with out drinking and drugging beats the streets.

School and work

More than 200 inmates are enrolled in the facility's academic education program, leading to the GED (high school equivalency). The school has five full-time and two part-time teachers who have achieved an excellent record at Hale Creek. The passing rate on the GED exam is 84 percent, as opposed to about 60 percent system-wide and about 50 percent in community-based programs on the outside. There is always a waiting list for participation; while waiting for an opening, inmates are set up with a tutor or cell-study program.

Inmates are also assigned to work programs, mostly in the kitchen, groundskeeping and facility maintenance. Others assist program and recreational staff, either with clerical duties or in paraprofessional positions with the transitional services program. Still others are assigned to community service.

Inmates are sent regularly to Tryon to clear roads, mow lawns and paint. If an Officer is available for supervision, service is provided to local governments and not-for-profits on request. Several years ago, a crew of inmates rehabbed the 18th century Old Colonial Cemetery in Johnstown, sprucing trees and shrubbery, repairing broken headstones and doing masonry work on the stone wall. The cemetery is well-known as the burial place of Revolutionary War soldiers and Washington Irving's sister.

"Hope" seems to be an unofficial motto at Hale Creek. The loop at the end of the roadway crossing the grounds is called "Hope Circle." At the center of the circle is a young evergreen, called the "Hope Tree," planted by inmates soon after the facility opened. When it came time to give the facility school a name in order to register with the state Department of Education, inmates voted to call it the "New Hope Adult Learning Center"

Hope is indeed a fitting theme for this institution. Most of the inmates will be released in a matter of months and, if they take to heart what they learn here, they will reenter their home communities sober and drug-free, with realistic hopes for responsible and productive lives.