Afternoon Read: A call to close prisons

Even as we speak, Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility is in the process of being mothballed.  Camp Gabriels is in the news because that shuttered facility has failed to find a buyer.

Last session, the North Country’s lawmakers — local and state — managed to block closure of two more regional prisons, in Moriah and Ogdensburg.

In today’s Albany Times Union, however, corrections activist Robert Gangi argues that a much more aggressive plan is needed to close more prisons fast.

More ambitious plans to shut facilities have failed largely for political reasons. Concerned about the loss of jobs, the correction officers union and legislators from upstate areas where most of the prisons are located have successfully blocked most closure proposals made by the state’s past three governors:   George Pataki, Eliot Spiter, and David Paterson.

Gangi argues that declining inmate populations signal the need for more cuts, and he seems to think that Andrew Cuomo will finally get the job done.

The week after his election, Andrew Cuomo toured Sing Sing prison and spoke to the press afterward. He cited New York’s declining prison population, calling it “good news.” He also strongly suggested that New York could no longer justify paying to keep open institutions whose employees “literally have no function.”

That was good news, too, and a significant signal that, on the prison downsizing front, New York’s next governor is determined to fulfill a major campaign promise by succeeding where his predecessors so tellingly failed.

What do you think?  Time to close more prisons, or not?  And what would that do to the economies of towns like Lyon Mountain, Gabriels, Moriah, Ogdensburg and Ray Brook?

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7 Comments on “Afternoon Read: A call to close prisons”

  1. Brian says:

    I bleat on about “small government” but I want the help these big government jobs bring to my local economy. I’m so confused. Please help!

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  2. mervel says:

    Are they really empty? I mean I keep hearing different things; different information.

    Just becuase the overall prison population is down does not necessarily mean any particular prison is empty. Maybe they are just more managable now? We heard for decades about prison overcrowding so maybe now they are simply not overcrowded anymore?

    But yes if we are paying people right now to do nothing then they need to go.

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  3. pete says:

    I feel sorry for prison employees who would lose their job and for local economies which would suffer, but it is not right for state lawmakers to block closures of unneeded facilities. The rest of the people of the state should not have to pay expenses for unneeded facilities. Keeping these facilities open is just another form of government handout, and one which is only being given to certain small areas. Lawmakers need to look at the big picture. Also keeping unneeded facilities open is only a short-term band-aid which artificially props up a local economy and can not continue indefinitely. It would be reasonable for the state/local lawmakers to ask for some sort of temporary assistance such as severence pay, extended unemployment, economic development assistance for the area, etc. , but the facilities should be shut down unless they can be efficiently re-purposed into something that is needed. No one is going to pay the average citizen for doing an unneeded job, why shoud the average citizen be paying others?

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  4. Mervel says:

    It will be interesting to see how they go about consolidation of the prison populations.

    For example I would assume you would close the old turn of century facilities before closing the newer facilities. Which in general should be good for some North Country facilities and possibly bad for others. The other consideration would obviosly be cost per inmate.

    The other method of deciding which to close would be simply political power.

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  5. scratchy says:

    Sure they should close underutiilized prisons. And they should also do away with wasteful film production subsidies. Though the latter mostly benefits NYC, so it probably won’t happen.

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  6. BRFVolpe says:

    We must all lament anyone who loses his or her job due to closing, whether private or public employer. But the economy and employment in the NC/Adks should not be dependent upon prisons. If the clientele coming in the door cannot support the business, it must close.

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  7. Bret4207 says:

    A couple of very good points have been made- what of the double bunking and over crowding we always hear of? Is it fact or fiction? Will the closings be political decisions or purely economic decisions? I don;t want to see anyone loose their job in any industry, but hard choices have to be made. Place the blame on the NYS Legislature that never said “NO” to a spending plan or looked to the future at all.

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