The Newburgh Path – Group 07

The Newburgh Path – Group 07 – Final – MSAUD Fall – Moving Image from nans voron on Vimeo.


The prison system of the United States is locking up more people than any other nation on earth. New York State spends $60,000 per year on each inmate it houses. In the Hudson Valley, the city of Newburgh is a community in distress: a high rate of unemployment, poverty and high-school dropouts mar its image. Social services are seen as placing their unwanted clients there and offering little support for the rest of the city, effectively abandoning it. In response, we propose to reallocate certain resources from the prison system into Newburgh and other cities facing similar circumstances in the region, such as Middletown and Poughkeepsie.

The Newburgh Path allows offenders of non-violent crime with sentences of three years or less to be diverted from traditional imprisonment and instead be housed under various levels of observation and engagement within Newburgh. Through a series of steps, candidates in the program are reintegrated into society incrementally through job training, adult education and other initiatives. The infrastructure used to facilitate this process is shared with and available to the public in the form of vocational workspace, recreation and meeting space. Such efforts, if successful, could help eradicate this region’s problem with cyclical incarceration by shifting the focus from addressing its symptoms to addressing its causes.

08_Boards projection


The Newburgh Path – Group 07 – Video Mapping from nans voron on Vimeo.

The Newburgh Path – Model projection from nans voron on Vimeo.

-The United States is a correctional country; it has only 5% of the world’s population but 25% of its prisoners, and an incarceration rate many times higher than any other country, which increased dramatically since a “war on drugs” was declared in the 1970’s.
-While this system has been increasing, it has also been documented as failing, for two reasons: first, it is extremely expensive, for example New York State spends $60,000 per year on each prisoner, and because nearly two-thirds of those released from prison will be re-incarcerated within 3 years.
-Because of this, the prison system has become a profit-driven business for some private companies who are reaping massive benefits.
-The Hudson Valley is an area with a high incarceration rate, especially in the cities of Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Middletown.
-This region can be understood through a flow of inmates and money between these towns and the regional prison system; $800 million per year is represented in this region, with nearly a quarter-billion being spent on inmates who have been charged with nonviolent crimes and sentenced for less than 3 years.
-Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Middletown are seen as casualties of this system, with high rates of crime, poverty, high-school dropouts and unemployment, all in communities where nearly half the population is under 25.
-We chose to focus our project on the areas of highest need within the city of Newburgh.
-Our area of concern is east of highway 9W and North and South of Broadway, the city’s main strip; this area is defined by a high crime rate but also with a high percentage of renter-occupied housing and low-income. residents, as well as borders between gang territories and racial divisions.
-To define our sites of intervention, we made a social model of crime in the area.
-According to an interview we conducted with a local police detective, as well as first-hand experience gained during a ride-along with the force, we determined a series of “hot spots” in Newburgh where crime is most likely to occur.
-These “hot spots” are areas with a concentration of commercial gathering spaces like bodegas and restaurants, where shootings are likely to occur.
-Also mapped here are the high number of vacant properties in the city, which are often used for criminal activity.
-Using a dynamic model, we mapped these factors where they are in the city and assigned each of them a value in order to visualize the crime. At the same time, values were assigned to elements that seem to repel crime, such as upscale establishments and police outposts. These forces were analyzed over the course of a day to give us a topographic image of crime in Newburgh in relation to space and time.
-We chose this particular strip of the city because it encompasses positive forces, negative forces and gang borders.

-Between Newburgh and the Hudson Valley prison system, we see an opportunity to combine resources to reconcile a broken system with a city that has become its victim.
-By diverting money from the prisons themselves into Newburgh, we can offer the community opportunities for employment, education and recreation.
-To capture this money, we are also diverting from traditional prisons those convicted of non-violent crimes with sentences of three years or less, as this reflects a population that needs to be helped instead of punished.
-Candidates will apply for this program and to be treated as students; this will function as an alternative to prison and offer them a path to graduate back into society.
-This path is based is based on social interaction; to create this interaction we are making spaces and programs with the prison money to benefit both the community and these candidates through social interaction
-Along this path, we define a threshold for interface between the public and the candidates
-In terms of phasing, we start by retrofitting vacant and abandoned buildings to house first-time parolees and to accommodate public programs on the ground floor that can be run by civilian employees or the candidates themselves; this is the most open level of social interaction in our system.
-In phase 2 we are building new residential units on vacant lots that will house candidates diverted from the last 6 months of their prison sentences.
-Here, shared programs on the ground floor are slightly more monitored and social interaction occurs at various points throughout the day.
-Phase 3, the last step, involves construction of a major center to house 200 candidates but also large recreational spaces, shared amenities and a large public plaza.
-In this step, candidates will be diverted from entering prison completely.
-Once all these phases have been implemented, candidates will be able to move through the system by starting in this most confined building and working into higher levels of interaction with the public before graduating back into society.
-Looking back at the strip we identified earlier, we chose to detail this area not as a master plan but as an example of our tools of implementation.
-Examples include details and strategies related to the spaces of social interaction.
-Regarding the retrofitted buildings: lighting, transparency and open programs on the street will extend the social life of the programs onto the sidewalk.
-These programs could be art classes, boxing classes, music or dance lessons, run by candidates or local community members.
-For the medium-sized new construction, transparency and shared spaces on the ground level are key elements to create interaction.
-Programming like classrooms, laundromats and restaurants will be staffed by candidates, similar to these same programs in traditional prisons, but here can also benefit the community.
-In phase 3, according to the size of the building, we will offer major facilities such as an auditorium, cafeteria and large gym.
-All of these are articulated by an open plaza while still using transparency and lighting to make this space a new gathering place for the city as events such as farmers markets and public events can be hosted here.

-The funding mechanism for this program is based on an experimental new system called Social Impact Bonds
-In this system, a non-profit organization is the coordinator between a private investor and the operators of our program.
-The investors are re-paid only if certain quantifiable goals are met.
-These goals are to reduce the recidivism rate of the candidates by 15% over 10 years, while also increasing the rate of high-school graduates in Newburgh by 20% in the same 10 years.
-The private investors are paid back by the non-profit organization with the money that has been diverted from the prison system.
-The goal of this mechanism is that the beneficial effects of the prison money can be shared by the candidates in this program and the cities that host them.
-If successful, not only in Newburgh but also in Poughkeepsie and Middletown, we could expect to see a long-term decrease in recidivism and subsequently a drastic decrease in the cost of maintaining the prison system in this region.
-This will likely lead to consolidation of the system, so we foresee opportunities to re-purpose facilites that are today being used as prisons.
-Since the success of this program also depends on an increase in high-school graduate rates, we can also expect a higher number of college-eligible students in the area over the long term.
-An example of the benefits this could bring to the Hudson Valley region is seen in what is today Fishkill prison, near Beacon, but in a decade could be Fishkill College.
-The prison campus typology of FIshkill is easily convertible to a college, complete with dorms, classrooms, administration offices and recreational spaces.
-We believe that the radical steps outlined here can put this region, and cities like Newburgh, onto a path to success, pulling them out of the cycles of incarceration, crime and poverty that currently detract from their image.
-The only path to doing this is not to look for ways to replace the current population but to address the social circumstances perpetuating these situations in innovative ways and to heal these communities in place with the most efficient use of resources that are already tied up in them.