The following history came from PrisonTalk.com website.
"Groveland Correctional Facility
Looking at Groveland, you can almost hear shouts of"Tallyho!" A steep gorge slices spectacularly through the facility's 1,725 landscaped acres, skirting the facility farm and winding uphill trough fields and past manor houses, flower-lined promenades and a stately mall. There is even a golf course on the grounds. But it is not used by inmates. Rather, programs here exercise their minds.
Surrounded by "forever wild" woodlands, Groveland is located in the village of Sonyea in Livingston County, about 40 miles south of the city of Rochester. At the crossroads of what were once well-traveled Native American trade routes, the site is just beyond the icy reach of lake effect weather: the climate here is generally mild and pleasing. As a result, Sonyea (in the language of the Seneca Nation, "The Valley of the Eternal Sun") was settled thousands of years ago. The area has been continuously inhabited, it is thought, since the Ice Age.
For the last 165 years, Sonyea has served special communities, all of them colonies of one kind or another. From the 1830's into the 1890s, it was the home ofthe "Shakers," a religious sect who chose to live apart from the industrialized, secular world. Then it was the site of Craig Colony, a state institution for epileptics unable to function in the society at large. In the 1960's, Craig evolved into a state developmental center for mentally retarded persons. Lastly, beginning in 1982, the grounds and facilities were gradually taken over by DOCS for correctional use.
Considering the shifting populations, this beautiful, spacious institution has undergone little change. Five of the original Shaker buildings are in use. Most of the other 125 structures date from the Craig Colony period. Of Groveland's 1,725 scenic acres, only 148, or less than a tenth, are fenced in. Two separate medium-security compounds, almost a mile apart, contain 1,383 male inmates. Another section of the grounds is unfenced and houses 156 minimum-security inmates. Additionally, over 100 employees live in attractive residences spread over the facility's 2.7 square miles.
The Shaker Colony
In the early 1800's, the United Society of Christian Believers, commonly called Shakers because of their whirling and twitching under the spell of religious frenzy, established a colony in Sodus, east of Rochester on Lake Ontario. When they learned ofplans to build a canal through the town, they felt "the world" was getting too close. So they began to look elsewhere.
In 1836, drawn by the beauty and growing conditions in Sonyea, the Shakers purchased 1,700 acres from a local physician. It took a full two years to move everything and everyone to their new home. They even brought their dead for reinterment. The Shaker burial ground, its stone markers now illegible from a century's weather, is on the southwest comer of the prison property.
For nearly 60 years, the Sonyea Shakers engaged in farming and light industry. The land they had acquired for $55 an acre included about 2,000 fruit trees (apple, cherry, pear, peach, plum and apricot), grapevines and berry and currant bushes. They learned how to condense milk, which they preserved and sold along with seeds, produce, brooms and bonnets. Later, a canal passed near their village. This time, however, the Shakers did not take flight. Instead, they took advantage of the manmade waterway to extend their market, as they would also use the railroad that passed through their property alongside the Keshequa Creek.
By the latter part of the century, the community was in decline. New converts were hard to come by, and the celibate "Plain People" saw their numbers dwindle to the point where there were not enough hands to work the land. They also suffered from fires, flood and debt, compounded when some dishonest trustees eloped with the community finds.
The state of New York offered $115,000 for the land and 30 buildings, with the assurance it would be used for charitable purposes.
The Shakers quickly accepted.
First steps to provide for epileptics
Through most of history, epilepsy has been viewed with fear and anxiety. Progressively debilitated by the wrackings of seizures, the epileptic's troubles were made worse by mistreatment and ostracism. A state of dependency was inevitable. In 1874, the state Commissioner in Lunacy noted that the state mental asylums contained 436 dependent epileptics, and that many more were inhumanely confined in county poorhouses and jails. His calls for a separate institution for epileptics, who were neither lazy nor crazy nor criminal, went unheeded for two decades.
Two men deserve credit for persuading New York to make appropriate accommodations for epileptics. After retiring from business, William Letchworth was appointed in 1873 to the state Board of Charities and began an energetic investigation of society's treatment of its dependent unfortunates - the poor and the orphaned, the diseased, the insane, the retarded, the blind and the epileptic. He visited Europe in 1880, where he found institutions with ample medical staff, vocational therapy, employment and recreation in homelike environments, in contrast to the stone walls and prison atmosphere of this state's provisions. In a stream of Dorothea Dix-style pamphlets, he urged the adoption of European methods here in New York.
While Letchworth was raising the consciousness of New Yorkers respecting dependents in general, Dr. Frederick Peterson focused on epileptics. Peterson, a physician on the staff of Harlem Valley State Hospital for the Insane, visited the epileptic colony at Bielefeld in Germany in 1886 and, on his return, agitated for a similar colony in New York. Finally, in 1892, the Legislature authorized the state Board of Charities, headed by Oscar Craig, to undertake the project. In partnership with Letchworth, Craig surveyed likely sites throughout the state and, after a year's search, recommended the Shaker community in Sonyea.
The property was purchased in 1894. Dr. William P. Spratling was appointed the first superintendent and began the process of renovation and conversion.
Craig died before the colony opened, and it was named in his honor. An original Shaker building from 1858 was named for Letchworth. Two structures built in the early days of the new colony were named after Peterson and Spratling. All three are in use today. Letchworth and Spratling halls serve as administration buildings for the prison, while Peterson Hall is used as a school.
Craig Colony established
The colony's first patients arrived in February, 1896.
Craig was the second such establishment in the United States, following by six years the opening of the Ohio Hospital for Epileptics.
Initially, males and females were housed on opposite sides of the gorge running through the property. Carved out by the Keshequa Creek, the gorge's sheer cliffs reach a height of 200 feet as the grounds climb upward from state Route 36. Cottages for women, on the south side of the gorge, were named after flowers, such as Dahlia, Clematis, Daisy, Heliotrope and Arbutus. North-side cottages received more masculine-sounding tree names: Evergreen, Oak, Cherry, Willow, Walnut, Laurel, Birch and Hickory. In later years, the female residents were moved to newer dormitories - Lilac, Daffodil, Violet - on the north side.
Craig names are still used today, but have been joined by letter designations used in corrections and numbers used by OGS. The same building is interchangeably, some say confusingly, called either Birch Hall, for example, or J-Dorm, or Building 17, or by its function, in this case SHU.
Craig's residents would receive an education and be employed, so as to "foster feelings of independence, manhood and pride" and acquire as great a degree of self-sufficiency as possible. While it was necessary to lock a few wards and buildings patients tended to come with a variety of physical and mental disorders - Craig was generally an open, self-contained little community. It featured a store, religious services, social events, musicals and other entertainment, as well as medical care.
Craig grew, adding to the Shaker structures. Several new cottages were erected in the 1920's. Most of the buildings on what is now called the Lower Green were built in the 1930's. Another building flurry occurred in the 1960's, when older, deteriorating structures were razed and replaced by the Twin Oaks and Wilkinson complexes.
As medication to control seizures was developed, Craig's population began to decline. In 1968, it ceased to specialize in epileptics, and functioned as a standard developmental center in the mental retardation system. Soon afterward, the state began to replace institutional care with community programs. Large institutions such as Craig would be phased out.
Groveland's opening and development
As Craig's patients were relocated in stages, DOCS - scrambling for beds - came in behind them. First, a section south of the Keshequa was fenced and renovated for housing and programs. The Daisy Building, outside the fence, served as a temporary administration building. Hawkins Hall, Craig's nursing school since 1911, became the staff training house. A chapel, dedicated in 1932 by then-Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, serves as the QWL. Other cottages were renovated for staff housing. The first of 250 inmates arrived in December of 1982.
Two years later, the section north of the Keshequa was renovated, This section, with 500 dormitory beds, would be called the Main Compound, and the south section became the Annex.
This second stage involved major renovation of aging buildings, in some cases a century old. Some were gutted from the basement to the roof while preserving the shells to satisfy historical registry status. The Main Compound includes Letchworth and Spratling Halls, used for administrative offices, and the 1967 C-Dorm and C-School, called together the Twin Oaks. It also includes a section known as the Lower Green. Desigued by the celebrated landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who laid out New York City's Central Park, the Lower Green is a rectangular layout, about 400 yards long and 80 yards wide. It is bounded by seven buildings (an eighth collapsed during renovation). The grass median, encircled by a driveway, is dotted with shade trees. Picnic tables are spread about the lawn.
With the departure of Craig's last patients, the third phase was completed in 1989, completing the corrections takeover of the former Shaker colony. The Main Compound's perimeter fence was extended to include Peterson Hall, the Wilkinson K- and L-Dorms (with 400 beds) and Wilkinson School, and the 1927 Wisteria and Dahlia buildings.
The third phase also encompassed the renovation of several structures on the southwest corner of the grounds, about a quarter mile from the Main, as a minimum-security unit. "Camp Groveland," as it is informally called, include two dorms with 156 beds and the palatial Iroquois Building, with offices, program rooms and the library.
Further renovation brought the capacity of the institution to 1,549. To meet the needs of the expanded population, a gym/activity building was constructed on the Annex in 1985, and another gym/activity building was erected on the Wilkinson section of the Main Compound in 1993. Also added to the Main were a new visiting room, a new infirmary and a building for the extensive horticultural work accentuating the natural beauty of the Groveland campus.
Women at Groveland
For two brief intervals, Groveland's large population included female inmates. In 1988, 300 women were housed at the Annex while the males - as in the Shaker days - were restricted to the other side of the Keshequa Gorge. After just five months, the women left Groveland, only to return three months later in larger numbers, occupying the Annex gym as well as the dorms. They were also housed in the camp section and organized into community service work crews. But by 1992, additional beds were added at other female facilities. That allowed Groveland to return to its role as an all-male facility.
Groveland's women participated in education programs, parenting classes, AIDS/HIV education and support programs, and self-help groups focusing on issues of sexual abuse, self-esteem and anger management. The facility also looked to mitigate the inmates' separation from their children. Arrangements were made to allow children to spend a week at a nearby Salvation Army summer camp and be bused to the prison to get reacquainted with their moms.
Myriad of inmate activities
With three widely separated compounds, Groveland has three guidance offices, three visiting rooms and three prerelease centers. Two vocational centers serve more than 600 inmates, many of whom contribute to the facility's upkeep through live-work projects. when a 1988 fire destroyed the cupola and fourth floor of the Letchworth Building, outside contractors replaced the roof but restoration of the fourth story was entrusted to an inmate vocational class. The inmates repaired the walls and sinking floor, creating a locker room and pre-shift line-up area for Groveland's officers.
Nearly 500 inmates attend classes in three academic schools. The regular school program is supplemented by instructors from Genesee Community College who visit to teach remedial courses and special courses in areas where inmates express interest, such as writing (short story, poetry, journalism), critical thinking, film as literature, the holocaust, the Shakers, the Civil War and the women's movement.
About 14 years ago, inmate combat veterans began to meet with a Groveland counselor for informal "rap sessions.' In 1989, the group evolved into the second formal DOCS veterans program (Mt. McGregor's was the first). Beds were set aside in one of the Wilkinson dorms and classroom space was made available. Two years after that, the program expanded when a relationship was cemented with the federal Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Canandaigua. The "Vets Helping Vets" program now includes 90 men.
Dr. Terence Keane, director of the National Center for Behavioral Services and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), said of Groveland's program, "It is clearly among the very best psychological service delivery programs that I have observed in the public and private sector." The program's excellence is central to the recently concluded agreement between DOCS, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), the state Division of Parole and the state Department of Labor to maximize services by concentrating veterans in a "V-Hub" (Groveland, Attica, and Wyoming). The V-Hub was recently recognized by the DVA as a "best practice.
Ten community service crews operate out of the camp. The biggest beneficiary is the Finger Lakes Disabilities Service Office. It maintains group homes in Livingston and surrounding counties for developmentally disabled persons including former residents of Craig. Inmates cut grass, shovel snow and generally assist in cleanup and maintenance of the group homes year round. Other recipients of Groveland help include nearby state parks, state armories, the Rotary Sunshine Camp for handicapped children in Rochester, the state Thruway Authority and local fire departments. As needed, inmates also assist localities in snow and other emergencies.
Groveland inherited a bowling alley from Craig. The lanes are attached to Cherry Hall, one of the original Shaker buildings, and are used by inmate leagues. But another Craig recreational feature, the nine-hole golf course formerly played by patients and staff is now open to the public. Local citizens regularly traipse the picturesque Groveland property to play the Keshequa Golf Club, a scenic little public course running alongside the gorge. Sitting inconveniently but splendidly between two fairways is Sonojawa Hall, erected in 1898 and now used for staff housing.
Groveland's uniformed and civilian staff work as a team, enabling the successful conversion of the historic Sonyea site to an effective correctional program. Staff commitment to this unique institution was evident from the start, as employees pitched in to ready the site in 1982 and later expanded to three widespread compounds. Similarly, the dedication of outside crew supervisors to doing each job professionally has been a crucial factor in Groveland's status as a valued member of the western New York community."