> The Utica Phoenix verifies and witholds the name of this author on grounds of possible retribution for the writing of this piece.
Visiting hours at Mid-State Correctional Facility are from 8:30 am – 3:00 pm. From a visitor perspective many times I have witnessed the hours of operation be violated.
This facility has a “Hospitality Center” that is of use to visitors to freshen up, have a hot cup of coffee and even snacks and juice for children that visit. This “Hospitality Center” opens at 7:20 am, so if you arrive any earlier than that you have to wait outside, no matter what the weather is like.
Some of the correctional officers (COs) are very cordial, but most of them treat you like you yourself are an inmate. Waiting for hours to make sure you get in before a 10:30 count time is encouraged.
Once you enter the “Hospitality Center” you are given a number, which determines in what order you will enter the facility. Any items you bring for loved one is required to be placed in a green bin that you then have to carry into the visiting area. I recall one situation where one of the COs (we will call him CO “Can’t Get Right”), decided that reading the newspaper was better than actually doing his job of placing the papers in order. He grabbed the papers and just started calling numbers in no specific order.
The people that had been at the facility since 6:00 am begin to get very angry and vocal regarding their wait in line and this not being procedure. CO “Can’t Get Right” stated, “I have been here many years and that is the way it is going to be done.”
Once you leave the “Hospitality Center,” as you carry the items to the visiting facility, you have to wait until you are buzzed in, walk through two more gates, and then wait in another line yet again. Once your turn comes, you are usually greeted by unfriendly COs that take your photo, sign your signature, and lead you to a metal detector and process where your hand is stamped. You are then allowed to go to a desk in which the CO there (we’ll call him “CO Grumpy”) advises you which visiting room you will be in (visiting rooms are separated; visitors with children are placed in one visiting room and visitors without children go to another).
Getting food out of the overcharged vending machines is a nightmare; many times the machines take your money and sometimes you will get expired food. Being that the facility is “Not Responsible” for your lost funds, you have to call a number to get your money back.
Many times one side (the children’s side) will have working vending machines and vice versa; some of the COs will allow you to go to the other side to get food “One Time” – depending on their mood – and some may deny you access or threaten to cancel your visits if you insist that you be allowed to enter an area that will allow you to eat for the 6-8 hours you will be there.
The process in the last couple of weeks have gotten better as far as the facility making sure that visitors are actually called for visits at 8:30 am as they should be. The COs also have been switched and the COs that treated visitors with disrespect may have been moved to different departments.
To any COs reading this article: remember to treat others how you yourself would like to be treated. It cost nothing to be nice; many of the visitors are having a hard time dealing with their loved ones being away from them. Treating them with disrespect makes it much harder. Humility can be learned; take a class – it could be you on the other side.