NY Times wants as many as ten state prisons to close

The influential New York Times jumped on the prison-closure band-wagon late last week, praising Governor Andrew Cuomo for promising to end the use of corrections-facilities as job engines.

The North Country has eighteen state prisons, as well as one Federal facility in Ray Brook, making incarceration one of the leading sources of high-wage jobs in the region.

In a lead editorial, the Times argues that as many as ten prisons should close state-wide, though it doesn’t say where the ax should fall or what should happen to the rural economies that often rely on these facilities

To get the Legislature to agree to shut these facilities, Mr. Cuomo will have to push back hard against the corrections workers’ unions that have thwarted sound closure proposals from all three of his predecessors.

The case for closures is laid out in a new analysis by the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit group. New York’s prison population has dropped from about 71,500 at its peak in 1999 to around 56,000 today.

This has left more than 8,000 empty beds, meaning that the state could close or significantly downsize eight to 10 of the 67 units in the system and still have ample room to handle any unexpected spike in the population. The savings would be $220 million in the first year.

Cuomo will also face stiff opposition from lawmakers — many of the Republican — who are loathe to see corrections jobs lost.

This debate comes as part of a national conversation over the costs and impacts of high rates of incarceration.

The latest census figures show that in 2008, there were 7.3 million Americans in the criminal justice system — in jail, prison, or on parole — the highest number ever, according to the Times.

To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of the entire populations — men, women and children — of Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota,  Alaska, North Dakota, and Vermont combined.

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10 Comments on “NY Times wants as many as ten state prisons to close”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    Why? Who care what the New York Times thinks.
    Not opposed to anything being cut if not needed but don’t care what the Times or any other newspaper thinks.

  2. Brian Mann says:

    Pete –

    For Cuomo to have the Times on his side in a battle against the public employee unions is no small thing. Does the Times editorial page matter in New York politics. Yes. Maybe not as much as the In Box, but they can always hope and dream, right?

    Brian, NCPR

  3. Prisons are a poor way to create jobs. I wasn’t happy with that trend when it began and if they aren’t needed we should be transitioning away from them as a job base. The key word there is transition. If the state just closes prisons across the North Country without presenting any alternatives, the already bad economy here will take a serious nosedive. The private sector is simply not positioned to step in sufficiently to make up for those jobs.

    If more jobs were created in managing and maintaining our public lands, campgrounds, trail systems and forestry management, some or all of the cost could be recovered through use fees rather than incarceration costs which are all paid out of tax dollars.

  4. Mervel says:

    That is the problem with relying on government spending as an engine of economic growth; it is essentially by definition political and capricious. When we accepted the prisons up here, something that in good times most of the wealthier districts in the state wanted no part of, part of the deal was that what the government gives it can also take away.

    We have 67 facilities statewide. If you cut 8 facilities statewide as the Times suggests; that is about a 12 % cut in total facilities statewide. We have 18 prisons in the North country, losing 12% would mean that 2 would have to close.

  5. tootightmike says:

    Isn’t it interesting that “good times” are when the prison population was highest, and that folks see a reduction in overall inmate population as a bad thing…boy!, have we got our heads on backwards!
    These jobs aren’t good jobs…they never were. Good jobs accomplish something. This system is inherently bad, producing nothing but bad energy on both sides of the bars.

  6. Pete Klein says:

    Brian Mann,
    As I said, I am not opposed to prisons being closed if they are not needed. It’s the full of its self New York Times I took aim at.
    I do enjoy reading both right and left columnists. I tend not to bother reading editorials, be they from the Times or the Glens Falls Post Star.
    And by the way, I hope no one is ever swayed when a newspaper endorses a candidate. I wish they wouldn’t do that. I wish they would just report the news.

  7. Mervel says:

    Good times are when the rest of the state didn’t want prisons so they dumped them in the poor areas of the state.

    Prisons are indeed full of negative energy that is truth. I do think to be totally reliant on them is not a good thing for any community either. But we will always need prisons particularly in the US. We live in one of the most violent societies in the developed world, we murder, rape and assault at much higher rates than other countries and we need places to remove these people from society and to keep our communities safer. Prisons accomplish that goal; they serve a very important societal function. It IS a good thing when the prison population declines and we should all be happy about that.

  8. JSLE says:

    Closing prisons is not an answer to help the NYS economy. We are letting violent inmates who have been incarcerated over half their lives back into a society – with what?? Definitely not an abundance of jobs to support them or programs to help with mental health issues, sex offender counseling, anger therapy, etc… Closing prisons will only backfire leading to a rise in crime – desperation leads to desperate measures (increase in drug selling, rapes, murders, robberies) to survive in a state where there is NOTHING!! Prison population has not declined – the state just manipulates the numbers so it APPEARS crime has lessened or create new ridiculous laws to let violent inmates back into society much sooner. Prison employees will then unfortunately be part of the REAL problem – WELFARE & UNEMPLOYMENT!!!! So I really can’t see where the solution is to closing NYS prisons.

  9. Sadie says:

    @tootightmike..I don’t understand what you are talking about. Good job, bad job…What?? It is a job! Why is your job any better than a corrections officer. HE or SHE is working with a violent person. Who, by the way, has no regard for human life. They are risking their life everyday. Can you say at your job, you have a health risk, like getting stabbed or cut with a handmade blade???? HUH??? I would say it is good thing there are people in this world that will take a job like that! You shoud thank God they are there..Otherwise, Cuomo may release the inmates into the general population..Maybe they will move in next to YOU! There will always be crime. Always be a need for jails. Given fact. The corrections officers don’t make the determination on population. They are there to put food on the table for their families. JUST LIKE YOU, tootightmike! Their job does accomplish something. They keep the prisoners locked up & not on your doorstep! GET IT!

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