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New York State’s Shock Prison Is Aptly Named

March 7, 1988

MONTEREY, N.Y. (AP) _ It’s hard to believe how loud the yelling is at the Monterey Shock Incarceration Facility, says one inmate, or that a mistake might mean carrying a log around for two weeks or staring at a wall for an hour.

But that’s the point of this boot-camp-style prison isolated in the middle of thousands of acres of state forest land, where rules are made to be followed and discipline is a 24-hour preoccupation.

″Nobody knows what to expect. They might tell you, but you have to go through it for yourself,″ said Victor Ramirez, a 22-year-old inmate from the Brooklyn borough of New York City. ″It was a shock.″

The first 28 inmates to complete the six-month program are scheduled to be released Tuesday.

The idea of the ″shock″ camp, one of several around the country, is to offer inmates between ages 18 and 24 a shorter prison term with an emphasis on discipline, hard work and cooperation. The hope is that they’ll use the skills when they return to society.

″Many times we’re not talking rehabilitation, we’re talking ‘habilitation,″ ’ said Melvin Hollins, prison superintendent. ″These are new ideas, novel ideas to many, many young people.″

Last Thursday, prison officials invited the media here to record the intimidating orders from drill instructors at breakfast, the spirited chanting during marching and the obedient responses from street-tough drug dealers and burglars.

A platoon of inmates, dressed in green uniforms, heads shaved to a fuzz, eyes straight ahead and chins up, waited in line to get breakfast. It was 7:30 a.m. and the men had been up for two hours.

″Ready 3/8 Move 3/8″ shouted the drill instructor.

Two inmates stepped up, picked up their trays and sidestepped down the breakfast line. One, his eyes never moving, bumped into the serving cart.

″A lot of them have never had to deal with respect, discipline or any other thing, and they find out they can do it. We don’t do it for them, it’s up to them,″ said Sgt. Stan Standish, a corrections officer.

The state opened the shock prison in September and, partly because of the success here, the Department of Correctional Services plans to open three more by the end of the summer and expand the program to include women.

The boot-camp style of incarceration started several years ago in the South, and has since spread to several other states, including Michigan, where Camp Sauble was scheduled to open today.

While most programs are too new to test their success rate, a 1986 study of the Georgia program found the number of shock camp inmates who committed crimes after their release was 23 percent, about the same as the general prison population.

Only non-violent offenders who have not served a state prison term are eligible for the six-month program, which includes intensive schooling, drug and alcohol counseling and work. Many of the 184 inmates were drug dealers or users.

The inmates on Thursday talked about going home to jobs or their plans to return to school, and were confident that they would not return to prison.

Carlton McIntosh, a 19-year-old from Brooklyn who was convicted of selling cocaine, said, ″If I was in a regular prison I think I would go right back to what I was doing because I wouldn’t know how to use my head.″

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