Great Meadow Correctional Facility
|Location||Comstock, Town of Fort Ann,
Washington County, New York, USA
|Opened||February 11, 1911|
|Managed by||New York State Department of Correctional Services|
Great Meadow Correctional Facility is a maximum security prison in New York in the United States. The prison is in Comstock, a hamlet right outside of Fort Ann, in Washington County, New York. As of September 3, 2008 it was home to 1,663 inmates. When Great Meadow opened in 1911 it was the fourth prison for adult males constructed in the state of New York.
Founding of the Prison
The 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of land that Great Meadow Correctional Facility sits on was purchased by the state of New York in 1905 from Isaac Baker. A mountain lake two miles (3 km) from the prison was the main source of water for the facility. The lake sat higher than the prison grounds allowing the transfer of water to be efficient. The original plans for the land was to build an institution for the mentally insane; however, such an institution was never erected. Instead, in 1909 New York legislature appropriated $350,000 to build a new prison.
Until the Great Meadows Correctional Facility was built, New York Prisons had been named after the places where they were built. No one knows how Great Meadow got its name, but it may have been named after the huge plot of land that the prison sits on.
Construction began in 1909. The original cell block was more than 1,000 feet (300 m) long and featured 1,168 individual cells. A new administrative building was built in 1932 while the original was remodeled as a hospital.1 All of the corridors of the prison opened up into one main corridor, called the Rotunda.
The first inmates arrived in February 1911, although the official opening wasn’t until June 8, 1911. Not until four years after the opening of the prison was the south wing of the cellblock completed.
Walter N. Thayer was the first warden, but was replaced only a few months later.
In 1925, there were 782 prisoners, 515 of them were under the age of thirty. In 1925, 597 of the inmates at Great Meadow were white, 169 were black and 16 were other. In 1931 there were 1,103 inmates, 726 of whom were under the age of thirty. 847 of the inmates were white, 253 were black, and 3 were other.
Great Meadow was dubbed a correction facility in 1954 when the governor Dewey said, “One of the most pressing needs at the present time is an institution for young offenders in need of rigid discipline.” 1 One year was given to the Prisons to clear out the older inmates and make room for the younger incoming inmates. In 1958 construction of a new cell block with 52 beds began and was completed in 1963.
When Great Meadow first opened it was home to mostly first time offenders, and therefore it did not need a wall for many years. But as inmate population grew Great Meadows Correctional Facility started receiving second- and third-time offenders from other New York prisons such as Sing Sing and Clinton. Still, without a good wall, many inmates could not be sent to Great Meadow Correctional Facility. In 1924 construction of a 3,000-foot (910 m) wall began. Four years later, the inmates had successfully finished walling themselves in. The wall encloses just over twenty-one acres. With the completion of building this wall Great Meadow became a maximum-security facility.
August 17, 1955: 75 inmates armed with bats and clubs refused to move from the yard. The warden gave them five minutes and then authorized the state police to forcefully return them to their cells.
May 1976: a fight broke out between two Muslim groups. They armed themselves with baseball bats and chunks of wood. A warning shot was fired and the guards used tear gas to break the fight up.
August 1976: The inmates, in apparent protest, refused to leave their cells, administrators believe the protest to be due to overcrowding, lack of work for all inmates, and racism. A report on Great Meadow called the facility, “ the garbage heap of the state prison system.” No one was hurt during the demonstration.
May 1981: after an hour-long exercise period, a brawl broke out between inmates and correctional officers. In total 28 people, including two guards were injured. The brawl broke out at 11 A.M. and with the help of tear gas was brought under control within twenty minutes.
A 38-year-old inmate died in 1982 after an encounter with prison guards. The altercation broke out when the inmate attacked a guard while being escorted back to his cell.
September 2007: Guards had to use tear gas to break up an inmate quarrel. This was the second time in one week that officers had to use gas to break up a fight.
Prisoners are offered both academic and vocational educational opportunities. Academically the prisoners can take programs including: Adult Basic Education, Bilingual Programs, GED classes, and Special Education Programs.
The Adult Basic Education Program focuses on inmates who are insufficient readers, and well behind on their basic math skills. This program gives the inmates the reading and math knowledge necessary for the inmates survive in modern communities.
The Bilingual Programs are designed to give inmates, who do not speak English well, the opportunity to learn English as a second language. It also has classes for those inmates who are dominant in Spanish to help prepare them for the Spanish GED.
The GED program is offered to all inmates whose reading and math scores are above the sixth grade level and do not have high school diploma. The goal of these courses is to prepare the inmate to pass the GED test. To be eligible for the GED level courses the inmate must be able to read and do math at the ninth grade level or better. If the inmates do not read and do math that well, but are still above the sixth grade level, they can take the pre-GED courses.
Inmates are offered a magnitude of vocational programs that will better prepare them for working in the outside world. These Programs include: Building Maintenance, Computer Operator, Custodial Maintenance, Drafting, Electrical Trades, Floor Covering, Food Service, General Business, Masonry, Printing, Small Engine Repair, and Welding.
There are two industries at Great Meadow. Metal Furniture Manufacturing, where office furniture, beds and security screens are manufactured. The other is Cleaning and Personal Care Products Manufacturing.
Counselors are available to the inmates. There are counselors for sex offenders, drug users, and mentally handicapped. The goals of these programs is to get the inmate the help he needs to function in society.
- Great Meadow Correctional Facility
- 11739 State Route 22
- Box 51
- Comstock, New York 12821
- (518) 639-5516
- "Great Meadow: A New Wall and a New Spirit." Author unknown. Document provided by Great Meadow Correctional Facility September 3, 2008.
- "Great Meadow: A New Wall and a New Spirit. Author unknown. Document provided by Great Meadow Correctional Facility September 3, 2008.
- . Paul W, Garrett, MacCormicc, Austin H.. "Handbook of American Prisons and Reformatories." New York City: National Society of Penal Information, Inc., 1929.
- Cox, William B., Bixby, F. Lovell, Root, William T., Handbook of American Prisons and Reformatories. New York City: National Society of Penal Information, Inc., 1933.
- Goldstein, Tom,30 Hurt in Clash in Upstate Prison; Muslim Rivalry is Cited in Great Meadow Incident. New York Times (1857- Current File). New York, N.Y.: May 20, 1976. P25.
- Treaster, Joseph B., Peaceful Protest Is Conducted By Inmates in Comstock Prison; New York Times(1857 – present). New York, N.Y.: Aug. 31, 1976. P.23
- Author unknown. 28 Are Injured in a brawl at State Prison in Comstock; Tear Gas Helped Alarm Device Used Prisoners Moved From Essex Jail. New York Times (1857 – current file). New York, N.Y.: may 30,1981. P.26.
- Author Unknown. Prisoner, 38, Dies After Scuffle. New York Times(1857 – present). New York, N.Y.: April 1982.
- Author Unknown. Comstock: Another Inmate Brawl;. The Associated Press. New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Sep12, 2007.