Magazine article Corrections Today

Thomas A. Coughlin III, 1938-2001

Magazine article Corrections Today

Thomas A. Coughlin III, 1938-2001

Article excerpt

Thomas A. Coughlin III, former commissioner of the New York Department of Correctional Services, died Aug. 23 following complications from heart bypass surgery. He was 63. Coughlin devoted most of his career to helping people in need and his work with those with developmental disabilities and with New York's prison system earned him national attention and acclaim.

Coughlin began his career in public service as a member of the New York State Police in 1962. In 1964, in addition to his duties with the New York State Police, he became executive director of the Jefferson County Association for Retarded Children (ARC). At that time, ARC was serving 15 clients from a church basement. Through Coughlin's persistence in obtaining federal funds, more than 600 Jefferson County residents were being served by ARC at a new multimillion-dollar facility in Watertown, N.Y., by 1975.

After visiting the facility in 1975, Gov. Hugh Carey was impressed with Coughlin's approach to helping retarded children and asked if he would like to expand his efforts across the state by joining the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH). Coughlin accepted and in October, he was appointed deputy commissioner of OMH, by 1975.

In 1978, he was appointed commissioner of the newly formed Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. In four years with New York state, Coughlin opened more than 400 residences, providing services to more than 4,000 people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. …

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