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Social Transition from Prison to Community
By KIM SMITH DEDAM - Press Republican
Published: 03/06/2009

GABRIELS, NY — An innovative concept for how to improve the social transition from prison to community emerged during a tour of Camp Gabriels Thursday.

State lawmakers are taking a closer look at ways to right-size the state prison system and reform programs by condensing them, without merely closing prisons.

Camp Gabriels is one of four minimum-security prison camps tagged for closure in the current Department of Correctional Services budget.

But if it were reorganized into a type of transition camp, the minimum-security, wilderness campus at Camp Gabriels might support programs that incorporate addiction treatment, vocational training and education in a mix retooled to reduce recidivism.

The concept would offer a type of societal follow-through for people released from prison, helping them make a successful return to their community.

Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) organized the tour, inviting Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx) to the quiet hamlet of Gabriels for a first-hand look at the site.

Hassell-Thompson is chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections, overseeing appropriations and budget reduction for the Department of Correctional Services.

The department is looking to save $3 million by closing Camp Gabriels, which currently employs 115 staff and correction officers.

Hassell-Thompson said making sure prisoners return to their homes and family "humanized" is a key component of the revised approach.

But it's one that has benefits on both sides, responding to society and to the need for sustainable economy.

"There is a great concern (in the city) for the economy of upstate New York," she said. "We are one state."

The question, Hassell-Thompson said, is, "How do we right-size?"

"Today's trip is an effort to gain new ideas."

Closed to the public and the press, the two-hour tour visited Camp Gabriels dormitories and other buildings. Read more.

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