A former corrections officer writes about prisons entertainment

Malone — an Air Force veteran who then spent more than two decades in the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision — has written 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 U.S. Air Force, then the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. He spent more than two decades with DOCCS, and his memoir focuses on his month-by-month experiences inside the state’s prison system.

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

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 took the civil service exam for state reform, was hired in 1994 and attended an academy in Albany.

“There were a lot of people going into that job at the time and I thought it was a very good thing, good benefits and what not, to get out of the military and get into a good civil service job, which it was considered to be. At the time,” Harrington said.

After spending 23 years as a corrections officer between Fishkill Correctional Facility in Dutchess County and Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Westchester County, Mr. Harrington retired on disability in 2018 from multiple injuries in his career that required eight surgeries.

“Officers have this mentality that when you walk into that prison and that door slams behind you, it turns a switch on for them. They’re trying to get home to their wives and families just as they walked through that gate before it closed behind them,” Mr. Harrington said. “They go there with their hands tied behind their backs to do things where whatever happens, they’re blamed if they do or if they don’t react to the situation, and they’re put in harm’s way.”

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

“As time went on in my career, the department got worse, policies changed, administrative officers changed,” Mr. Harrington said. “I’m speaking about the department as a whole but specifically about Fishkill, when I talk about administration and policies, and what not.”

He used many documents saved over the course of his career to compile a book on the state’s antiquated prison system, and the rampant violence, drugs and mismanagement that plagued day-to-day operations.

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

According to Mr. Harrington, actions taken by correctional officers were routinely second-guessed.

“Everybody worked within the scope of their training as far as I could see, but it was quarterbacking from Monday morning officials, you have to make a split second decision,” he said. “They were sitting in an air-conditioned office in another building, and we were there in the trenches dealing with all these broken policies that clearly weren’t working. It became such a negative environment, it was unstable. Violence could erupt at any moment in Fishkill, it’s a huge sprawling facility. “

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

“The takeaway of my book is for people to look at what’s going on there, and why offices are leaving that job at such an alarming rate, the department can’t keep up with staffing levels,” Harrington said. “You have to fill yourself with all these problems and we’re only human – it becomes a point where sooner or later you’re going to explode, you’re dealing with so much negativity, these painful and emotional problems.”

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

“If I had to write that book today, the emotional state I was in, the things I was going through and what my family was going through at the time, all of that wouldn’t happen,” Mr. Harrington said. . “I think being able to get that out on paper gave me hope that there would be someone listening to the problems out there.”

He said that when dealing with correctional officer unions or administrations, it is often a political situation where everyone is not treated equally.

“It was a world of politics out there and it shouldn’t have been. Not everyone was equal, not everyone was on the same level,” Mr Harrington said. “For me I want people to know what’s going on, getting that exposure, getting the word out because sooner or later people will get tired of it and they’ll take a stand, whether it’s the officers’ families or the officers themselves, these guys are walking away from the job, from the academy. have also come out.

Mr. Harrington said his book deals specifically with workplace violence between officers and employees. He said that the violence in the state prisons is not only between prisoners and guards but also between the guards themselves. He said that the department will not adopt a zero tolerance policy for workplace violence.

“The biggest thing for me was workplace violence and it took a lot of injuries to improve,” he said. “There are many hard-working and decent officers but in every basket there are one or two bad eggs. I am really referring to those cases with those bad officers who have not been filtered out or washed out in the academy or through the probationary period. It is unfortunate that we have to deal with those types of officers out there. .”

Mr Harrington pointed to DOCCS’s lack of guidance on nepotism as an issue that leads to unequal treatment of corrections officers.

He says that the department needs to make major improvements before the work environment improves.

“I don’t think it’s ever going to get better there; there’s got to be some big reforms and changes,” Mr. Harrington said. “It’s a game of politics there, who knows. It is the implementation of some of these policies with selected individuals and not others. They need to level the playing field for everyone out there, they need to do a lot more, and it’s a broken system. You have people sitting in offices in Albany who have never worked in a prison making these decisions.

He started his disc jockey business, DJ Pauly H Entertainment, last year, and says working in a music-focused business helps with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder from his time as a corrections officer.

“It’s all about work. Music gives me an outlet, and it puts me in an environment where people are positive, they’re having fun, they’re having a good time, they’re listening to music and dancing,” Mr. Harrington said. “I’m playing music and getting involved. , I’m interacting, so I decided to try it, made a very significant investment, and am very busy with it.”

Mr. Harrington said he talked to Franklin County Fair board members about providing the entertainment and debuted it at the fair last year. “They hired me last year and hired me to come back this year.”

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

Mr. Harrington’s hometown, Malone, is home to three state prisons: Bear Hill, Franklin and Upstate Correctional Facilities. Other North Country state prisons include Clinton Correctional Facility in Dunnemora, Adirondack Correctional Facility in Essex County, Altoona Correctional Facility in Clinton County, Governor’s Correctional Facility and Riverview Correctional Facility in St. Lawrence County, and St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility.

“Once you retire you’re able to do a lot of things. Some guys want to forget about it. Guys like me had to live through that trauma, it’s always with you,” Mr Harrington said. “I wrote this book to shed light on these conditions and to get the word out there, and to lobby Albany, to do whatever we can to make that happen, to propose change some time down the road. The union is not doing it. There needs to be more responsibility at the top. “

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