Former prison officer writes about prisons | Fun

MALONE – An Air Force veteran who then spent more than two decades with the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision wrote a memoir about his experiences in two New York State prisons.

Malone native Paul F. Harrington Sr. now lives in Newburgh, Orange County. He graduated from Franklin Academy, Malone, in 1989, and joined the US Air Force, then the New York State Department of Community Corrections and Supervision. He has spent more than two decades with DOCCS and his memories of him focus on his monthly experiences within the state prison system.

Mr. Harrington returned to Franklin County in early August during county fair week, working as a disc jockey at the fairground.

During his time in the Air Force, Mr. Harrington was stationed at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, serving from 1989 to 1993.

Mr. Harrington said he then took the Civil Service Test for State Corrections, was hired in 1994, and attended Albany Academy.

“At the time there were so many people coming into that job and I thought it would be a good thing to do, good perks and what not, after leaving the army and getting into a good civil service job, which was considered at that time, ”Harrington said.

After spending 23 years as a corrections officer, between the Fishkill Correctional Facility in Dutchess County and the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Westchester County, Mr. Harrington retired on disability in 2018 due to multiple injuries over the course of his career. which required eight surgeries.

“There’s this mentality with agents that when you walk into that prison and that gate slams behind you, it turns on a switch for them. They’re trying to get home to their wife and family the same way they went through that gate before it slammed shut behind them, “said Mr. Harrington.” They’re going there with their hands tied behind their backs to do a work where whatever happens, they are damned if they do it or damned if they don’t react to a situation, and they are put in danger. “

After his retirement, he wrote the memoir “Justice or Not” which was published on June 30, published by Austin Macauley Publishers.

“As time went by in my career, the department got worse and worse, the change of policies, the change of administration officials,” said Mr. Harrington. “I’m talking about the department as a whole, but more specifically Fishkill, when I’m talking about administration and politics and what not.”

He used multiple saved documents throughout his career to compile a book about the state’s antiquated prison system and the rampant violence, drugs, and mismanagement that inhibit day-to-day operations.

“I decided, when I got out, that I had so many experiences in there that I wanted to share them. And many of those experiences have been very painful for me and my family, and I didn’t want those same experiences to be shared by other officers, ”Harrington said. “I wanted to take a stand against the wrongdoings in there, the lack of reaction to situations that could be avoided, the biggest problem was that the employer was not providing a safe working environment.”

According to Mr. Harrington, the actions taken by the prison officers were regularly guessed.

“Everyone acted within their lineup as far as I observed, but it was Monday morning quarterback by the officers, after you had to make a split second decision,” he said. “They were sitting in an air-conditioned office in another building, and we were down there in the trenches dealing with all these broken policies that obviously didn’t work. It became such a negative environment, it was volatile. Violence could erupt in Fishkill at any moment, it is a huge sprawling structure.

Fishkill is a multi-level security facility, with a special housing unit for maximum security inmates, according to Mr. Harrington. Sing Sing is a maximum security facility.

“The goal of my book is for people to see what’s being done in there and why agents are quitting that job at such an alarming rate that the department can’t keep up with staffing levels,” Harrington said. “You have to fill yourself with all these problems and we are only human – it becomes a point where sooner or later you will implode, you are stuck with so much negativity, these traumatic and emotional problems that you are dealing with.”

Mr. Harrington said he started writing his book in the summer of 2017 and it took three years to complete.

“If I were to write that book today it wouldn’t be in the same emotional state I was in, all the things I was going through and dealing with, and what my family was dealing with at the time,” said Mr. Harrington. “I think being able to put it on paper gave me hope that there would be someone who will listen to the problems in there.”

He said dealing with the union or the prison officers’ administration has often become a political situation in which not everyone is treated equally.

“It was a world of politics in there and it shouldn’t have been. Not everyone was the same, not everyone was on the same level, “said Mr. Harrington.” For me I just want people to know what’s going on, get that exposure, spread the word because sooner or later people will get tired of it. and they will take a stand, whether it is the families of the officers or the officers themselves, these guys are quitting their jobs, even leaving the academy.

Mr. Harrington said his book specifically deals with workplace violence between officers and staff. He said that violence within state prisons is not just between inmates and guards, but between the guards themselves. He added that the department does not have a zero tolerance policy for workplace violence.

“There have been so many injuries to deal with, the most important thing for me is workplace violence and reform,” he said. “There are a lot of hardworking and respectable officers in there, but in each basket there are a couple of rotten eggs. I really mean those problems with those bad officers who weren’t filtered out or wiped out in the academy or during their probationary period. It’s a shame we’re dealing with some of those types of officers in there. “

Mr. Harrington pointed to the lack of a directive on nepotism by the DOCCS as an issue that leads to the unfair treatment of prison officers.

He says the department needs to make major reforms before the work environment can improve.

“I don’t foresee it will ever get better in there; there will have to be some major reforms and changes, ”said Mr. Harrington. “It’s a political game in there, who knows who. It is the application of some of these policies that are carried out with selected individuals and not with others. They have to create a level playing field for everyone in there, they have to do a lot more and it’s a broken system. There are people sitting in the Albany offices who have never worked in a prison making these decisions ”.

He started his disc jockey business, DJ Paulie H Entertainment, last year, and said working at a music-focused company helps with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder from his time as a musician. corrections.

“It’s all about work. Music gives me an outlet and puts me in an environment where people are positive, have fun, have fun, listen to music and dance, ”said Mr. Harrington. “I play music and I’m involved in participation, I’m having interactions, so I decided I wanted to try it, I made a pretty significant investment and I’m very busy.”

Mr. Harrington said he spoke to Franklin County Fair board members about the entertainment offering and debuted at the fair last year. “They put me up last year and hired me to come back again this year.”

Mr. Harrington’s memoir is available on Walmart, eBay, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. It has also been released internationally in Europe and the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Harrington’s hometown of Malone is home to three state prisons: Bare Hill, Franklin and Upstate penitentiaries. Other North Country state prisons include Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, Adirondack Correctional Facility in Essex County, Altona Correctional Facility in Clinton County, Gouverneur Correctional Facility and Riverview Correctional Facility in St. Lawrence County and Cape Vincent Correctional Facility in County of Jefferson.

“Once you retire you can talk a lot. Some guys just want to forget about it. Guys like me who have had to go through that trauma is always with you, ”said Mr. Harrington. “Writing this book is bringing these situations to light and getting that word out there, and maybe proposing a change sometime along the way, putting pressure on Albany, whatever we can do to make it happen. The union does not. We need more responsibility at the top “.

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