House Rules

What the Putnam County jail tells prisoners

By Chip Rowe

According to a recent report, many jails and prisons hire outside firms to write their operations manuals, which guide officers as they interact with inmates and dictate standards such as cell size and mail procedures. We were curious if the Putnam County jail had one. In response to a Freedom of Information Law request, the Sheriff’s Department shared a copy of the seven-page handbook it distributes to inmates, excerpted below.

The Putnam County Correctional Facility

Although it is not included in the handbook, in 2017 the Sheriff’s Department barred inmates from having any physical contact with visitors, including handshakes and hugs, because of concern about opioids being smuggled into the jail. Each inmate receives two hours of visit time each week, in 30-minute increments.


Dear Inmate:

This handbook provides you with the necessary information for you to have a safe and peaceful time while you are in this facility. This handbook contains information needed to ensure that while you are being confined in this facility in accordance with the law that you are treated in a manner designed to protect the safety of all persons herein, and to provide for the security of this Correctional Facility.

You need to follow the rules of this facility; you should always respect the rights and privileges of others. The respect you want to receive from others should be the respect you give to them. You need to read and understand this book. Make yourself familiar with the rules and regulations, and the rights afforded to you by law and privileges you may earn.

By reading this handbook and knowing what is says you will have a good stay.

At the end of your period of incarceration, you are to return your copy of this book to the Booking Officer, so please do not damage this handbook, it may cost you money.


The Sheriff of Putnam County


Upon arriving in the Booking Room, you were questioned by the Booking Officer on matters of personal identification, religious affiliations, relatives, illnesses, dietary needs, medical and mental health requirements, etc.

Any personal effects in your possession were placed in a Property Bag; you signed a receipt and were given a copy. Any illegal material or contraband was confiscated or destroyed. Any money you had was accounted for and placed in an account for you. You may use this money to purchase permitted items through the commissary.

You were given at least one telephone call. (If this call was outside of Putnam County, you made the call collect.)

You were photographed and fingerprinted.

You were told to shower.

You were given the necessary facility clothing to replace your personal clothing. In the event that you have court proceedings to attend, you may have one set of dress clothes kept in a secured room. Your articles of clothing will be returned to you when you leave the facility.

You were issued two (2) sheets; one (l) blanket, two (2) in the winter; one (1) towel; a drinking cup; comb; soap; toothpaste; toothbrush.

You were escorted to a cell assigned to you, where you were directed to make your bed and prepare for your stay here.


You are subject to frisk, pat searches, strip searches and cell searches at any time. Strip searches will occur after contact visitation, on a random basis, or when there is reason to believe that you may possess contraband. Strip searches may also be conducted at the direction of the facility physician.


You will get your meal in the Housing Unit common area and then proceed to your cell and lock-in.

You must be dressed in a shirt, pants and shoes, with your identification, to receive your meals.

You will not remove eating utensils from the Housing Unit.

You are to remain in an orderly line, no talking, when receiving your meal.

While going through the meal line you are not to reach into the food containers unless you are told to do so.

You will be given enough time to finish a meal.

The switching or giving away of food items with another inmate is not allowed.

You cannot keep any mealtime eating utensils.

Should your behavior warrant it, the meal that is being served to you will be processed so that it is in a loaf form and served to you without any plates or utensils. This is called Meal Loaf.

You are not allowed to keep any Facility food items after the day that they are given to you.


Books and magazines are restricted to those that are readily available in the community around the Facility. They cannot depict deviant sexual or violent acts or stories. Any book or magazine that is found to be of a threat to the Facility may be returned to the sender or censored. Any book or magazine that calls for an uprising or the overthrow of the Facility may be returned to the sender or censored. Any book or magazine that professes an ideology against or calls for discrimination based on race, ethnicity, place of origin, gender and sexual preference may be returned to the sender or censored.


You can only possess pen(s) purchased from the commissary or provided by the Facility. You may have pencils for school work or colored pencils for drawing, when allowed. Your pen or pencil may be taken from you and the use restricted if it is found that you used it in an inappropriate manner, such as writing on the walls.

General library services are provided in a cooperative venture between the Facility and the Mid­-Hudson Library System. The books are provided as a part of an educational, informational and recreational program to help make the period of incarceration constructive and productive.


A nurse will deliver medications to each Housing Unit. You are expected to be ready to receive your medication when it arrives. You will be called over the public address system. You will be required to physically show the nurse and corrections staff that you are taking your medication. When you appear for medication dispensing you must bring something to drink with you; the nurse may not have water to give you. Do not share a drinking cup with another inmate.

If you are caught concealing medication, Disciplinary Action will be taken against you and the physician will be notified, who may restrict the dispensing of your medication.


Mental health services are something you should not be afraid of. There is no shame if you or someone else needs the help of a mental health worker.

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