Department of Corrections is an agency of the state that is responsible for the
supervision and management of convicted felons. The Department of Corrections allows
the protection of the community by operating safe, secure facilities that keep offenders
under firm, fair practices. There is a wide range of treatment including educational and
vocational programs that help the offenders become rehabilitated citizens. Corrections has
been around for centuries. The corrections history of New York and of Utah are just a
few pieces of a huge puzzle of corrections. ?That human institutions require periodic
redesign, if only because of their tendency to decay is not a minor fact about them, nor
easily understood. Taken the span of history, there is no more important lesson to be
The history of New York’s Corrections starts with the Fort Amsterdam Era. Fort
Amsterdam was erected in 1625. Its facilities were dungeon-like. Its prisoners included
unruly soldiers, native people that were uncompliant, and debtors. Next came States
Huys. It was built in 1642. This Corrections facility also served as a tavern, a court, and
a city hall. In 1699 Stats Huys was condemned as unfit and could no longer be used as a
jail and judicial center.
Next the New York City Hall was constructed. Many dangerous prisoners were
kept in the basement until they had their court proceedings. But in 1700 the basement’s
security was proved to be inadequate, so guard’s were hired to watch the prisoners. In
1759 the first facility was built specifically for use as a jail. It was named New Goal.
Most of the jail housed civilian lawbreakers except for a few debtors and paupers. 1775
brought about the construction of a workhouse known as Bridewell. It was to be placed
in New York City Hall Park but its construction was interrupted by the War for
Independence. In 1788 the New York State Legislature enacted a law that named twelve
Commissioners to Bridewell and Almshouse, another Corrections facility. This panel of
commissioners is almost definitely the administrative beginning of the New York
Department of Corrections.
New York opened its first state prison in 1788. It opened on November 28th. It
was named the Greenwich State Prison. The structure included Doric columns, huge
surrounding walls and four acres of grounds. 1816 brought about New York’s first
penitentiary, named Bellevue City Penitentiary. This penitentiary is the home of a large
number of female felons. Next came Auburn prison which was opened in 1817. In 1821
Auburn prison opened a new wing to their facility. It was built in a cell system to replace
the old dormitory housing. Inmates in the sell system are allowed to leave their cells
during the day to work in the prison shops. This new system was then deemed the
?Auburn system? and soon after became the standard for American prisons. In 1824
the New York State Legislature incorporates the society for the Reformation of
Juvenile Delinquents as a subsidiary of the New York Society for the Prevention of
Pauperism. Authorization was then given to build a house of refuge for delinquent
children. An old War of 1812 arsenal was used for the refuge. It was rebuilt as a secure
residential institution and was named the New York City House of Refuge.
Ossining prison was opened in 1825 to compensate for the overcrowding at
Auburn and the Greenwich State Prison. Greenwich State Prison was then destroyed and
a prison at Mt. Pleasant that became known as Sing Sing was reconstructed to hold the
inmates that were transferred from Greenwich. Also in 1828, the New York City
Commissioners of Bridewell and Almshouse bought The Blackwell Island so that they
could have facilities under their jurisdiction. This included the New York City
In 1830 the Provost, a jail that was used when the British were in control, was
closed down and was turned into the city Register’s office. 1832 brought about the
opening of the New York City Penitentiary on Blackwells Island. The Almshouse
Department is also created to operate the Almshouse, Bridewell, and the NYC
Penitentiary. Five commissioners are also named to run the Department. The first state
prison matron is also hired at Auburn in 1832. In 1836 the Kings County Jail was started.
This was before Brooklyn was part of New York City and therefore allowed the jail to be
operated under the jurisdiction of the Kings County Sheriff.
In 1838 the Halls of Justice were finished after four years of construction. It was
designed as an Egyptian mausoleum, so the structure was very damp and dark. Many
other jails were also named after Egyptian influence. Next came the opening of New
York’s Sing Sing prison for women in 1839. Eight years later, in 1847, education
programs were started at Sing Sing. In 1848 a three-member ?Board of Inspectors? was
started to be in charge of state prisons.
In 1851 the Child Savers, a group of reformers that believed city children would be
saved if they were sent to live with farm families, opened the New York Juvenile Asylum.
New York then established the nation’s first institution for insane criminals. It was built
on the grounds of the Auburn prison. In 1860 the new York City Department of Public
Charities and Correction replaced the Almshouse Department. This department now had
control over the city’s public welfare and correctional institutions. In June of 1862 the
New York County jail was opened. It was also known as the Ludlow Street Jail. It was
the replacement for the Eldridge Street Jail.
In 1863 New York City’s Fourth District Prison was built in Manhattan. It
became known as the 57th Street jail which was also part of a court complex. In 1865
New York City’s Seventh District Prison was built on the city’s west side. Corporal
punishment was outlawed by the state legislature. In March of 1869 on of Sing Sing’s
prison keepers was killed. He was said to be the first New York correctional officer to be
killed on the job. In 1871 the Queens County jail was built in Long Island City.
In 1873 the State Legislature mandated New York City to separate the
Department of Public Charities and Correction. Now Public Charities was one division
and Correction was one division. 1875 brought about the first Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Children which then prohibited the confinement of children at Almshouse. In
1876 the Elmira Reformatory was opened. This facility based its practices on the theory
of reform rather than punishment. Then in 1878 Louis D. Pilsbury became the first
?Superintendent of Prison.? He had complete responsibility and control of state prisons.
In 1881 the House of Refuge for Women was established. The Penal Code was also
enacted. This Code amends children’s law. In 1885 New York City’s Fifth District
Prison was opened in East Harlem. This was a multi-tiered structure. It included forty
double-occupancy and a dormitory that could hold fifty criminals.
Next in New York’s corrections history was in 1884 when the Department of
Public Charities and Correction acquired Rikers Island. A women’s reformatory was then
opened at Hudson. It was influenced by the Elmira Reformatory for males. In 1890
Auburn prison electrocuted the first state inmate. In 1892 a statute was enacted allowing
juvenile case segregation and specialization.
In 1893 the State Use System was started to eliminate profiteering from inmate
labor. In 1895 a new Queens County Jail was built. It later becomes known as the City
Prison of Queens. It has a main building and a annex. The main building consisted of five
tiers of cells looking down a central corridor. The annex was used as a women’s prison
for a long period of time. In 1895 and 1896 the Department of Charities became the
In 1900 Eastern prison opened. Its actual construction began in 1894. In 1921
Eastern became the Institute for Defective Delinquents Then some years later it went back
to its original function as a reformatory for young inmates. In more modern days it turned
into a maximum-security prison for male felons and also a medium-security prison that
housed 180 inmates.
There is also much history of corrections all over the nation dating back to the
1700’s. It seems that until the late 1700’s prisons were horrible places. They were
unclean and unsafe. Prisoners received improper food and care, corporal punishment and
physical torture were used on a regular basis. The 19th century brought about many new
developments in America. America was the first nation to hold convicted criminals areas
away from those awaiting trial. America also outlawed torture and corporal punishment,
which was mentioned earlier in New York’s history.
Americans brought about two main developments. The first was the Pennsylvania
System. This included the Walnut street Jail which housed one inmate per call. It was
also based on the plan for housing monks in a monastery. The Pennsylvania system also
started the idea of constant solitary confinement. This idea was not very popular. The
prisons took up too much space and did not house enough prisoners. They also did not
allow for group work or living.
Next was the Auburn system, started by the Auburn prison in New York. This
system is known for its tier or congregate system. The prisoners were all in the same
areas for meals, exercise, and work. The philosophy of this system was based on fear of
punishment and silent confinement. Silence was always required and punishment was the
result if the rule was broken. This system was preferred over the Pennsylvania system
because it allowed for prison labor. The Auburn system was cheaper because more
prisoners could be held in less space. One building could hold ten to fifteen times the
number of prisoners than was ever possible under the Pennsylvania system.
The 20th century held a part in the changing world of corrections. Reformers
thought that it would be helpful to bring the good parts of society into the jails and
prisons. They believed that education, religion, work, and self-governance would help
change how criminals were rehabilitated. Incorporating these ideas led to prison
industries, education programs, and vocational programs. They also helped bring the use
of corporal punishment to an end.
Specialized prisons were also another idea that came from the 20th century. Many
prisons were based on the level of security needed and the types of inmates each place
held. One prison might have housed inmates that could be rehabilitated and another
housed inmates that were to far gone to be rehabilitated.
Prisons stopped making money from prison labor in the 20th century. Prisons
could not use their products for interstate commerce of goods made for private use. This
led to inmates doing ?make-work? jobs like pressing license plates. By 1940 prisons had
also gotten rid of using solitary confinement as a form of punishment. They code of
silence was broken so prisoners were actually allowed to talk to other prisoners during
Many correctional changes have also happened over the past few years. There was
the Prisoner’s Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 1980’s. These movements gave
prisoners certain right that they have never had before. The received the right to have
freedom of speech and religion. They could receive medical care. They got the right to
procedural due process and they were allowed to live in proper living conditions.
Not all the reforms have resulted in positive effects. Many of the reforms that have
happened over the 175 years have decreased the control and power that administrators
have over inmates. Prisons have become much more violent because the control of the
prisons has changed from the staff to inmate gangs. Riots have broken out in some
prisons including New York and New Mexico.
It also seems that many methods to rehabilitation have failed. The idea that
prisoners are seen as ?sick people? that need to be treated has not been proved.
Treatment does not ?cure? these people. The idea of reintegration have not been highly
successful either. Rehabilitation centers thought that allowing criminals to participate in
work release would help them reintegrate themselves back into the community. But
crimes committed by those criminals that were on work release made this theory very
unpopular. One method has been the main stay though. The Bifurcated Correctional
Policy has those criminals that are dangerous and violent put in prisons for long periods of
time. Supporters believe that prison are places for control, incarceration, and
incapacitation. On the other hand, those that are not violent are kept out of the
correctional system as long as possible. They go through community based programs
instead of incarceration.
Now what is the difference between jails and prisons. Jails are used for holding a
criminal before their trial and/or sentencing. Jails hold those that violate their parole or
probation requirements. Not only that they hold prisoners that come form overcrowded
prisons. About half of a jail’s population is people awaiting their trials. Some are waiting
to be transferred to a prison. About 20 million criminals go through jail in a one year
period. Most jail inmates are young, single males. They tend to be undereducated and
earn low income. Fifty-seven percent of jail inmates are minorities. Many come from
single parent households and are drug or alcohol users. A majority of them are also
arrested for property crimes.
The condition of US jails are generally very poor. They lack basic programs and
services. The food is of poor quality. Medical and recreational facilities are also in poor
condition. The staff of a jail is usually underpaid and there are not enough staff members
to cover all the inmates. Overcrowding is also definitely a problem with jails. This is
cause because there is now mandatory sentencing for DUI’s, drug use, and spousal
Now on the other side are prisons. Unlike jails, prisons are classified by the level
of security they use. There are three levels of prison security. The first are minimum
security prisons. There are no armed guards or walls. The inmates live in dormitories or
small private rooms. The inmates in these minimum security prison are the most
trustworthy and have committed the least violent crimes.
Next are medium security prisons. There are fences and armed guards unlike the
minimum security prisons. Treatment efforts are used to rehabilitate the inmates. Inmates
receive visitor privileges. Inmates are those that are violent but have some chance of
being rehabilitated and returned to society.
The third type of prison is a maximum security prison. These prisons are built with
high walls, multiple fences with cyclone wire, and there are definitely armed guards with
guard towers. Security is the main emphasis here because they house the most violent and
dangerous criminals. These prisons offer little rehabilitation or education; it must be
earned by the prisoners. There are little in any visitors allowed in maximum security
prisons. Some of these prisons lock their inmates in single inmate cells for twenty-three
and a half hours a day. The other half of an hour is used for showering and exercise.
The similarity between jails and prisons is that the inmates profiles are rather
similar. They are young, single, and poorly educated males. Most are minorities. They
are usually poor and do not have jobs. Most of their crimes dealt with weapon or drug
use. There are a million people in Federal and State prisons. This number has tripled
The US has the highest prison population in the world. These high numbers seem
to be caused by the use of mandatory sentencing laws and from having high
unemployment rates. Over the past fifteen years, the prison population has grown 250
percent. Probation and parole populations are also growing about seven percent every
year. It also seems that these criminals have more problems than those from the past.
Today’s criminals are less educated and have more mental disabilities.
With all of the change with today’s families, religions, schools, and economies, it is
hard for the correctional system to keep up. The correctional system has to continue to
renew its programs and facilities so that they can successfully help return offenders to their
families and society. The correctional system must be responsive to all of today’s
problems. The correctional system main purpose is to assure public safety and increase
the success rates of offenders in the most cost-effective way.
Corrections has been a tremendous help to our society. The history of corrections
helps us see where we are going with the idea of rehabilitating criminals. The corrections
industry can measure its failures and successes by just looking to the past. The corrections
system has come a long way but there is still a long way to go. By understanding how are
society changes and how that influences crime the corrections system will be able to
increase the rate at which criminals can turn themselves around. Our court systems have,
in recent years, been said to be inefficient, sometimes ineffective, and even backlogged to
the point where cases have to be dismissed because of how long it takes for them to get to
court. After my trip to court, these are my opinions and observations on the Efficiency
and Effectiveness of our Criminal Court System.
The court procedures of provincial court are very systematic and are carried out very
swiftly. It is much like a tennis match, the ball, or control in the court, is volleyed back and
forth between the judge (and court clerk) and the lawyers. The court clerk arraigns the
accused, the defence lawyer responses with how the accused pleas, if it is not guilty, the
court clerk asks how the Crown lawyer wishes to proceed and so forth. However, this is
not so in the Ontario Supreme Court (Trial Division), though similar in methodical
procedures, the court cases are longer and much more time is spent on each individual part
of the case, from presenting the evidence to cross- examination of the witness, this is
because of the amount of information involved.
The general atmosphere and behaviour in the Provincial Courtrooms were general loose
and calm. The people, lawyers, judge, clerk and recorder seem to know each other very
well. They joked openly, even while the court was in session, the defence lawyer asked if
he could persuade the judge into a lighter sentence after the judge had already made a
decision in a very easy and friendly tone of voice, something seemly unprofessional that
caused chuckles throughout the courtroom. Where in the Ontario Supreme Court the
atmosphere was much more serious, professional, strict and at times high in tension. Our
current bail system, in either monetary terms or personal recognizance, seemed pretty
successful in Provincial Court, though not observed in the Ontario Supreme Court, all the
people did show up for their trial, which included two people on bail for possession of
marijuana cigarettes. As a final note, no bench warrant was every called for by the judge
for people whom failed to attend their trial.
The necessity of the duty council is for those who don’t have a lawyer and is for their
benefit that they discuss legal options that the accused might have before proceeding,
however this part of the system is not very efficient as the court must adjourn for this and
thus waste valuable time that could be otherwise used for processing other court cases.
The Crown Attorney in provincial court was, on the whole, fairly well prepared, efficiently
bring relevant facts to attention, friendly and well acquainted to the defence lawyers as
well as the judge, and quick to get to the point that he was trying to prove. There was
little time wasted, between the arraignment and the sentencing, on the part of the Crown
Attorney. In Ontario Supreme Court, the Crown Attorney there seemed well prepared,
efficient, and quick, however there seemed to be a lack of personal evolvement in the case,
rather he seemed emotionless, just doing his job, not being familiar with the judge or other
people in the court room. By the way he presented and dressed, he appeared far more
strict and serious in conduct and appearance than his Provincial Court counterpart.
Calling a remand can be helpful in that it allows witnesses, especially key witnesses, to be
present at a later date when it is possible for them to attend the trial, as duty may call them
to do otherwise. The disadvantages, however, are mostly on the accused’s part, as s/he
must remain in custody longer in order to be brought back to trial.
The necessity for a lawyer for minor offences can sometimes outweigh the cost the
accused must pay for them because the lawyer understands the law and how the system
works, he might be able to point out some small discrepancies or may suggest what type
and how much punishment is suitable for the accused’s crime. The lawyer may also point
out that if the person has a record, how old it really is, as records older than 5 years old
that are not cleared are disregarded by the judge. They also help the cases progress faster
as an accused legal options will be already made clear to him by his/her lawyer.
Lawyers are absolutely necessary for major cases, as the accused may not understand his
legal rights clearly or may not know how to defend himself correctly in the correct the
manner during trial in court.
Court judges in Provincial Court were generally looser than those in Ontario Supreme
Court as that the one we saw in Supreme Court seemed more serious, lacked in emotional
expressions, but also easily bored. However in Provincial Court, they were serious but
there was room for humour and understanding of the accused’s situation. Over all they
looked like they enjoyed their jobs.
All in all, the system we currently have cannot be any better as it is efficient as humanly
possible without violating any individuals rights as in the Charter.