North Central Correctional Inst. at Gardner
(Security Level Medium/Minimum)
Thomas Dickhaut, Superintendent
500 Colony Road
PO Box 466
Gardner, MA 01440
Phone (978) 630-6000
Gardner State Colony was first established in 1902 as a colony for mentally disturbed patients who were able bodied and sufficiently cooperative to engage in construction work for the institution. The hospital served the North Worcester County area, and maintained both agricultural and livestock farm areas which were basically self- supporting. In 1970, a phase-down of in-patient facilities was instituted in the state of Massachusetts, and the Gardner facility was officially closed in 1975.
The North Central Correctional Institution at Gardner, as it is now known, is located on twenty acres of hillside near the Gardner/Westminster town line. The dedication of this medium security facility was held on June 18, 1981, with the first ten inmates accepted into the prison two weeks later. Within the facility are eighteen buildings, with a perimeter consisting of two chain-linked fences topped with razor wire. The perimeter is manned by three towers and foot patrols of K9 teams.
Reconstruction and renovation of the facility has continued for more than a decade, with many of the projects enabling the prison to increase the inmate population. In 1982, the school building and Thompson Hall East Wing were renovated. A year later, the perimeter was expanded and additional buildings were converted into inmate housing. In 1985, completion of the modular unit and a subsequent expansion of the unit a year later also increased inmate capacity. Most recently, a new kitchen and gymnasium were built, with two other buildings renovated in order to accommodate inmate housing. As a result of these projects and renovations, over 1,000 inmates are now housed at NCCI-Gardner.
The Locust Building Minimum Unit
Locust Building was originally used to house staff members of the Gardner State Hospital . The State Hospital closed on July 1, 1976.
The North Central Correctional Institution opened on June 18, 1981. Locust building was not utilized until 1983 when the Stewards Office moved in downstairs and the Identification/K-9 Office was upstairs. In 1986 the building was turned over to Food and Farm Services.
Food and Farm Services utilized Locust Building from August 1986 to July 1989. The building then remained vacant.
Renovation on the Locust Building commenced in 1990. Initial funding provided in 1991 was $100,000.00, however, the project stopped due to the discovery of lead. In 1993, the project again ceased as modular housing from Deer Island House of Correction was being considered as alternative housing. In 1994, the project resumed when the building was de-leaded by an MCI Shirley work crew.
Renovations continued off and on until the Minimum Unit opened on May 18, 1998. On June 10, 1998, Locust Building was dedicated to the lasting memory of Timothy T. Beauregard, Correction Maintenance Worker II for his loyal service to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts , NCCI, and its staff. Tim was a member of NCCI's staff from February of 1986 until his untimely death in November of 1992. During this time Tim was held in high regard by both his peers and supervisors.
Locust is a thirty (30) bed minimum unit. The inmates are placed into crews to perform maintenance within the grounds of the facility and outside the facility for the local communities. The outside crew, known as the OUS crew, is derived from an approved list of inmates housed at the minimum. These inmates, supervised by an Officer, go out to the local communities to perform various jobs. Their service has saved and continues to save these communities thousands of dollars each year.
The minimum unit entered into a partnership with the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS) back on December 23, 1998. The program is a result of corroboration with Sister Pauline Quinn of Casco, Maine, who has aided numerous correctional facilities across the country implement similar programs.
NEADS is a non-profit organization established to provide Hearing and Service Dogs for people who are deaf or who use wheelchairs. These Assistance Dogs become extensions of their owners and bring security, freedom, independence and relief from social isolation to their partners.
NEADS is one of the oldest and largest programs of its kind. Since 1976, NEADS has trained over 500 working dogs for service across the United States.
NCCI was the first Massachusetts Department of Correction facility to incorporate this program. It has since expanded to the minimum security facilities at MCI-Framingham on September 28, 1999, and was at MCI-Shirley Minimum on February 4, 2000 until their closing on June 30, 2002. The Northeastern Correctional Center took over for MCI-Shirley. MCI Plymouth has also joined into this program. The program is very much in line with the Department's Vision Statement to offer the inmates opportunities for positive behavioral change and optimize community reparation efforts while working collaboratively with the community and other agencies. Under the direction of both Department of Correction staff and the NEADS trainers, the inmates raise the pups teaching them basic obedience and other skills (such as retrieving dropped articles, turning lights on and off, and opening doors) that are needed to prepare them for their future career as service dogs. According to the NEADS staff, the Prison Pup program has expedited the training process and has resulted in a reduction of the waiting list for service dogs.
NEADS also utilizes the NCCI program to work with pups who are having difficulty with some aspect of their training. As of October 1, 2003, a total of 37 pups have been involved in some aspect of the program since its inception and sixteen have graduated from the program. The dogs that fail the program are placed as companions or therapy dogs.