A former prison officer writes about prisons | Entertainment

MALONE — An Air Force veteran who went on to spend more than two decades at the 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 US 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 in the state’s prison system.

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

During his service 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 exam for state corrections, was hired in 1994 and went to the academy in Albany.

“At the time there were so many people coming into this job and I thought it would be a pretty good job, good benefits and whatnot, after I left the army I got a good job in the civil service, what was considered at the time,” Harrington said.

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

“There’s this mentality among police officers that when you walk into that jail and that gate slams behind you, that flips the switch for them.” They’re trying to get home to their wife and family the same way they went through that gate before it closed behind them,” Mr Harrington said. “They go out there with their hands tied behind their backs to do a job where whatever happens, they’re damned if they do or damned if they don’t react to a situation, and they’re put in harm’s way.”

After his retirement, he wrote a memoir, Fair or Not, which was released on June 30, published by Austin Macauley.

“As time went on in my career, the department got worse and worse, changing police officers, changing administrative staff,” Mr. Harrington said. “I’m talking about the department as a whole, but specifically Fishkill, when I’m talking about administration and policies and whatnot.”

He used reams of documents preserved during his career to compile a book about the state’s antiquated prison system and the widespread violence, drugs and mismanagement that hamper day-to-day operations.

“When I came out, I decided that I had so many experiences there that I wanted to share them. And a lot of those experiences were 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 irregularities there, the lack of response to avoidable situations, the biggest issue was that the employer was not providing a safe working environment.”

According to Mr. Harrington, the actions taken by correctional officers were routine second-guessing.

“Everybody was acting within their training as far as I could tell, but it was the quarterback on Monday morning from the officials after you have to make a split-second decision,” he said. “They were sitting in some air-conditioned office in another building and we were down there in the trenches dealing with all these broken policies that clearly weren’t working. It became such a negative environment, it was volatile. Violence could break out at any moment in Fishkill, it’s a huge sprawling facility.”

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

“The takeaway from my book is for people to see what’s being done there and why employees are leaving this 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 issues and we’re only human – it becomes a point where sooner or later you’re going to break down, you’re stuck with so much of this negativity, these traumatic and emotional issues that you’re 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 this 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. n Harrington. “I think being able to put this on paper has given me hope that there will be someone out there who will listen to the issues.”

He said dealing with the correctional officers’ union or administration often becomes a political situation where not everyone is treated equally.

“It was a world of politics out there, and it shouldn’t have been.” Not everyone was equal, not everyone was at the same level,” Mr Harrington said. “For me, I just want people to know what’s going on, get it out there, get the word out, because sooner or later people are going to get tired of it and take a stand, whether it’s the families of the officers or the officers themselves, these guys are leaving work, even leave the academy.

Mr Harrington said his book dealt specifically with workplace violence between employees and employees. He said violence in state prisons is not only between inmates and guards, but also between the guards themselves. He added that the department has a zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence.

“There’s been so much hurt that I’ve had to deal with, the biggest thing for me is workplace violence and reforming it,” he said. “There are a lot of hardworking and decent officers out there, but there are one or two bad eggs in every basket. I really mean these issues with those bad recruits who haven’t been filtered or washed in the academy or on probation. It is unfortunate that we have to deal with some of these types of officers out there.

Mr Harrington pointed to the lack of a DOCCS directive on nepotism as an issue which resulted in correctional officers being treated unfairly.

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

“I don’t foresee it ever getting better there; there will have to be some major reforms and changes,” Mr Harrington said. “It’s a political game inside, who knows who. It is the enforcement of some of these policies that are done with select individuals and not others. They need to level the playing field for everyone 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 launched his DJ business, DJ Paulie H Entertainment, last year and said working in a music-focused business helped with anxiety and PTSD from his time as a prison officer.

“It’s all about work. Music gives me an outlet and puts me in an environment where people are positive, having fun, having a good time, listening to music and dancing,” Mr Harrington said. “I play music and I get involved, I have interactions, so I thought I wanted to try it, I’ve made a pretty significant investment and I’m very busy with it.”

Mr. Harrington said he had talked with Franklin County Fair board members about providing entertainment and debuted at the fair last year. “They hired me last year and hired me to come back again 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 of Malone is home to three state prisons: Bare Hill, Franklin and Upstate Correctional Institutions. Other state prisons in the northern part of the country 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 Jefferson County.

“Once you retire, you can talk about a lot. Some guys just want to forget about it. Guys like me who had to go through that trauma, it’s with you all the time,” Mr Harrington said. “I’m writing this book to bring these situations to light and spread the word, and maybe propose change sometime down the road, lobbying in Albany, whatever we can do to make that happen.” The union does not. There needs to be more accountability at the top.”

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