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REPORT CONCLUDES THAT SHOCK PROGRAMS BENEFIT PRISON INMATES, STATE, TAXPAYERS

Shock programs are good for some New York prison inmates, and it also benefits New York taxpayers, says the ninth annual Shock report to the state Legislature.

And while state Sen. Dale M. Volker cautions that it's too soon to assess the long-term benefits of shock incarceration -- the rigid military style, hard work jail time built around alcohol and substance abuse treatment and basic education sessions -- the short-term outcomes show that the program has made progress:

Between 1987 and March 1997, 27,302 inmates, including 2,377 women -- all non-violent and volunteers -- were selected from regular medium- or minimum-security prisons for shock incarceration. They were drawn from an eligible list of 51,690. Many had drug-related convictions.

The program is not easy. Some 9,064, or 30.5 percent, of selected inmates failed to complete the six-month program and were returned to regular prisons. Because of perceived benefits, corrections officials are trying to get more eligible inmates to enter the program.

As of April, 16,764, including 1,247 women, graduated and were released to intensive local parole programs called After Shock.

The Correctional Services Department, which spends $32 million a year on its four shock centers, believes that the state saved $365 million in operating costs and $135 million in avoided construction costs over the past nine years.

The department lists $20,833 as the annual cost of a Shock inmate, or 83.3 percent of the $25,000 annual cost of maintaining an inmate in regular prisons.

Though far from 100 percent effective, shock incarceration and aftershock programs are regarded as New York's best way to deal with non-violent offenders.

Shock graduates have had fewer in-prison misbehavior incidents, read better and are less likely to commit new crimes than inmates released from regular prisons. Additionally, female shock graduates outperformed both male graduates and women released from regular prisons.

Between 1988 and 1990, some 32.4 percent of shock graduates violated parole as opposed to 38.1 percent of inmates released from other prisons.

Shock incarceration -- a six-month, physically strenuous, regimented program for selected, non-violent male and female offenders -- is offered in exchange for reduced prison time.

Their progression from brown-capped recruit through the green-, red- and gold-capped platoons to graduation for many marks their first solid achievement in a difficult and legitimate endeavor.

Lakeview Correctional Facility near Brocton in Chautauqua County, with about 700 inmates, including 160 women, is the center of New York's 10-year-old shock program.

Superintendent Ronald W. Moscicki, 49, a Batavia native with 25 years in the state Corrections Department, heads the program.

The military-like discipline is designed "to get their attention," Moscicki has said.

Yes, there are limits to what shock incarceration can do.

"You cannot always change a law-breaker into a law-abiding person in six months," Volker said. "But New York's shock incarceration program has been such a success that it has frequently been visited by officials from other states and nations."

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