NY to close 6 prisons, citing low prison population for 31 years | New

ALBANY (TNS) – Six prisons across the state will close next year, Governor Kathy Hochul said on Monday, citing declining prison populations and savings for taxpayers.

Closures slated for March 10 include Downstate Correctional Facility in Dutchess County. Downstate – long the first stop for New York City prisoners after being sentenced – is currently at just over half of capacity. State data shows there are 688 inmates at Downstate and 644 staff.

As of Monday, the statewide prison population was 31,469, a drop of more than 41,304 or 56.7% from a high of 72,773 in 1999. The current total is also the lowest number of people in prison since 1984, prison officials said.

Prison officials said they reviewed all 50 prisons before selecting the six to close. Almost all of them are more staffed than inmates and are operating well below capacity. The closures will save the state about $ 142 million.

18 more state prisons have closed since 2011, officials said, including the Gowanda Correctional Center.

The closures were approved as part of the state budget in April. But the decision on which facilities to close was made by Hochul and the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Advocates have been pushing for prison closures for years, while state prison unions and local authorities have resisted because institutions create jobs and boost local economies.

The move was hailed by activist Jose Saldana, who said it did not go far enough. “New York prisons still hold about twice as many people incarcerated today as they did in the 1970s, at the dawn of the era of mass incarceration in our country,” said Saldana, director of the Release Aging People in Prison campaign.

“Therefore, Governor Hochul and the legislature must use their powers to safely release people from prison. The governor should use his clemency powers frequently, in an inclusive and transparent manner. “

He called for the passage of bills that release the elderly and reduce and speed up sentences for parole violations, which return people to jail.

“Without these measures, and despite these closures, thousands of people will continue to languish needlessly behind bars,” he said. “Tens of thousands of black and Latin families rely on New York rulers to bring their loved ones home. “

The medium-security Willard Drug Treatment Campus in Seneca County near Syracuse will also close. The dungeon has 329 employees who supervise 168 incarcerated people, well below the capacity of 664.

Other facilities slated for closure include Ogdensburg on the Canadian border, the Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in the Catskills, the maximum-security Southport Correctional Facility in central New York City, which employs 405 people guarding 268 prisoners, and Rochester Correctional Facility, which houses only 46 people.

“Among these facilities, Southport, a prison dedicated exclusively to solitary confinement for decades, has tortured countless souls and torn apart many families,” said Saldana.

Michael Powers, head of the union that represents state corrections officers, criticized the decision, accusing “the state’s progressive policies.”

“At some point, the state must realize that these choices are more than buildings and tax saving measures, they are decisions that change lives that turn lives upside down and destroy communities,” he said. said Powers, president of corrections and police for the NYS. Benevolent Association.

Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt R-North Tonawanda said the continued reduction in prison space and the loss of staff put the remaining state correctional officers at risk.

“Albany’s politicians refuse to learn from their mistakes or understand basic causes and effects,” he said in a statement. “They continue to prioritize measures like bail reform, ‘Less is More’ and other pro-criminal policies that have put more criminals back on the streets.”

Prison officials said staff at the closed facilities would either be transferred to other prisons or considered for employment in other state agencies. No dismissal is planned. How the facilities will be used in the future remains uncertain.

Inmates accommodated in the institutions will be transferred to other prisons.

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