Greenhaven Correctional Facility operating without emergency medical services
Correction officers and inmates at Greenhaven Correctional Facility in Stormville have been without emergency medical services for weeks.
News 12 confirmed the information with New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association Mid-Hudson region vice president Chris Moreau after receiving a tip from a prison employee.
Moreau says no ambulances have responded to calls for help at the correctional facility in Dutchess County since August. He says violence is up 35% at the facility and that their calls have become a burden to local EMS.
“If an issue arises and emergency medical aid is needed at the moment, we put whoever it is in a state van and get them to the nearest area hospital as soon as possible,” says Moreau. “We have the clinics in every facility, but they don't provide the same type of medical care that a hospital would.”
News 12 reached out to Town of Beekman officials about the facility’s EMS problems and Empress, the ambulance corps that Moreau says typically responds to the facility, but did not immediately receive a response.
A representative for the Department of Community Corrections and Supervision says they're working with private EMS providers to immediately restore services.
"DOCCS was notified by the Beekman Fire District that they would no longer provide EMS services to support the Green Haven Correctional Facility and is currently contacting private ambulance companies when the need arises. We are in active negotiations with the Beekman Fire District to restore services which we anticipate will happen in the near future," says Director of Public Information Thomas Mailey.
Moreau says Greenhaven correction officers and others statewide are also working mandated double shifts for days because of a severe staffing shortage. He says employees are suspended and fined $1,000 for missing a mandated shift or are otherwise put on unpaid leave while waiting for a disciplinary hearing, which could take months.
“I think that unfortunately, the inability to recruit and retain staff is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The conditions are so bad in the facilities that we can't recruit or retain, and because we can't recruit or retain, conditions continue to deteriorate because you don't have the staffing resources required to run a jail safely,” says Moreau. “Staff are getting burnt out and they're going out on leave more often than not because their bodies simply can't hold up to the demands the agency is placing upon them at this point.”
Mailey says DOCCS is dealing with staffing shortages like many other public and private sectors nationwide.
"DOCCS, like many law enforcement agencies across the country, is experiencing challenges in its recruitment of security staff, and is one of the reasons for increased overtime costs," says Mailey. "If a correction officer refuses a direct order, such as an order to remain on duty for another shift, it is considered an act of insubordination. The refusal creates a security concern, and the result is a suspension."
At the time of the suspension, the employee can exercise their rights, per the collective bargaining agreement, to resolve the charge.
As of last week, Moreau says the state is also requiring correction officers on medical leave or disability turn in their service weapons until their return.
"If a security staff person must go out on workers compensation due to an injury, that person is required to surrender the weapons that they own solely by virtue of their peace officer status," said Mailey. "The reason for the action is if an individual is not able to fulfill the responsibilities of a peace officer at work, they cannot act as a peace officer outside the facility either. This was also a recommendation from the NYS Inspector General in her recent report on Workers Compensation and DOCCS."