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Prison Warden Briefs Panel On Garner Changes



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Prison Warden Briefs Panel On Garner Changes

By Andrew Gorosko

Garner Correctional Institution Warden Giovanny Gomez this week briefed members of the town’s Public Safety Committee on the state’s plans to expand Garner’s role in the treatment of inmates with serious mental disorders.

The warden spoke March 2 at the quarterly meeting of the ad hoc panel, which reviews the public safety implications of activities at the state’s high-security prison on Nunnawauk Road.

By June, the state Department of Correction (DOC) plans to consolidate at Garner its treatment of inmates with serious mental health disorders. Garner has long had a specialty in housing inmates with mental health problems. (See related story).

As of March 2, Garner held 692 inmates. Of that number 304 were mental health inmates, 205 were general population prisoners, and 183 were pretrial inmates.

Although Garner was designed to house approximately 750 inmates, when the mental health consolidation is completed, the facility would hold approximately 650 prisoners, the warden said. Some of the dual-occupancy cells in the prison will be converted for use by one inmate, because some mental health inmates will not be able to function with a cellmate, the warden explained.

The treatment program to be offered on Garner is based on a program developed by the Texas Department of Correction, Warden Gomez said.

More than 300 prison staff members will receive specialized training to effectively deal with mental health inmates, he said. That training will help staff members identify problems with inmates. Training is slated to be completed by June 1.

“This [treatment] model is going to work for us,” Warden Gomez said.

State Rep Julia Wasserman, who is a public safety committee member, said she favors consolidating at Garner the treatment of inmates with serious mental disorders. Mrs Wasserman said she expects the expanded treatment program will benefit prison inmates, as well as benefit society in general.

A prime goal of the treatment program is having inmate acquire personal skills, as well as reducing the recidivism rate.

In the past, Garner was the state prison that specialized in housing convicted prison gang members and high security-risk inmates.

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