Cuomo says prisons and incarceration can no longer be a jobs program

One of the most passionate moments in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s speech was the moment where he condemned the use of incarceration as a way of building employment in upstate New York.

He began the segment of his speech talking about juvenile incarceration facilities, but appeared to transition to a broader blast at the use of correctional facilities in general to provide jobs.  Here’s what he said:

“An incarceration program is not an employment program.  If people need jobs, let’s get people jobs.  Don’t put other people in prison to give some people jobs.  Don’t put other people in juvenile justice facilities to give some people jobs.  That’s not what this state is all about.  And that has to end this session.”

The North Country has more than a dozen state correctional facilities.  Two prisons — in Ogdensburg and Moriah — were slated for closure last year, but were saved by an aggressive lobbying campaign.

Two other facilities, Camp Gabriels north of Saranac Lake and Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility have already been mothballed.

We’ll have a full report tomorrow morning, looking at what this might mean for the region’s prison industry.

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20 Comments on “Cuomo says prisons and incarceration can no longer be a jobs program”

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  1. Mervel says:

    Is he implying that criminal justice sentencing is done to maximize employment in the incarceration business? What does that say about our judges and our laws? Who exactly is putting “other people in prison to give some people jobs” ? That is a pretty serious claim and to say that he needs to be pointing out judges and legislators who would intentionally put someone in jail to give someone else a job.

    He should say our prisons are empty and we can’t afford to keep them open when they are empty; but he didn’t say that, which I find interesting.

  2. Susan says:

    My interpretation is that many people are being kept in prison who should not be. For example this year approximately 1500 people were told that they could write for clemeny. Most of their cases were not even reviewed. They were not even given the proper protocal which requires an interview before determining any further steps. Instead they were all given the same letter stating they had been denied and better luck next time.
    If even a third of these people were released then the state would save $20 million dollars a year. And that is just the cost of maintaining the inmates. That is the kind of saving I think he means.

  3. verplanck says:

    how someone could say this and not be in favor of decriminalizing marijuana has a severe problem in putting two and two together…

  4. oa says:

    I agree Andy C was wrong not to name names, but the charge of corrections as a cynical industrial-development program over the last 30 years is pretty much proven. Check out this 1998 story on the topic:
    From the story:
    “The prison-industrial complex is not a conspiracy… It is a confluence of special interests … composed of politicians, both liberal and conservative, who have used the fear of crime to gain votes; impoverished rural areas where prisons have become a cornerstone of economic development; private companies that regard the roughly $35 billion spent each year on corrections not as a burden on American taxpayers but as a lucrative market; and government officials whose fiefdoms have expanded along with the inmate population. Since 1991 the rate of violent crime in the United States has fallen by about 20 percent, while the number of people in prison or jail has risen by 50 percent.”

  5. BRFVolpe says:

    Amen, Mr. Cuomo.

  6. Bret4207 says:

    Cool. I wonder if this will push the unions away from the Dems?

  7. Linda says:

    I agree with Andrew Cuomo. I have seen first hand how the system works. Minor crimes are staying in prison longer to account for jobs. A friend was sent to Lakeview Shock program a 6 month program that was to lead to his releas upon conpletting the intense program. He did very well as did the other 23 inmates, but were still sent to another correctional facility 45 days before there graduation date. Were they there to get bodies in the program to show its usefulness?? Had they never intended to let these gentleman out? Did they need more bodies at the other institutions? He is now in an Upstate facility working for the prision system for 28.00 every two weeks. He is allowed off the prison site to work for them. Tell me why he would not be better off working for his family, and paying taxes instead of making us the tax payers pay for him there? He is non violente, and has already served a yr of his 1 to 3 yr sentence. Where is the justice here? The deptment of Corrections even had improper paper work on his record, he has since had fixed with the department. I appeal process is lengthy, and when they do get around to it how much do you with we will have paid for this flub??? Ask the Coerrection Dept..

  8. Brian says:

    Bret: It’s hard to say. First, unions were cool to Cuomo during the campaign anyways. Second, ‘public safety’ unions endorse Republicans more than other unions.

  9. Mervel says:


    Yes I see the confluence of special interests but I really do think we need to look at sentencing. The Corrections department does not sentence criminals they simply house them and keep them away from society which is one of the functions of a prison; to remove people from society who cannot or will not obey the law of the land.

    Many people of course would make the case that the reason that violent crime has dropped so drastically since 1991 is that we have increased the incarceration rate.

    I don’t know the answer but if the prisons are indeed empty then yes we should close them without a doubt they should not be jobs programs and I agree with the Gov. on that point.

    Although what happened to all of the talk about overcrowded prisons and the inhumanity about the overcrowding? What is it empty prisons or overcrowded prisons?

  10. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    I’m with you Verplanck. But I don’t necessarily see huge savings on the incarceration side of the equation as I don’t believe most users actually go to prison. I think ending marijuana prohibition would result in savings on the interdiction and prosecution side of the coin. One reason I didn’t vote for Mr. Cuomo was his non support of medical marijuana so I won’t be surprised when he ignores the issue completely…..

  11. Bret4207 says:

    Brian, what unions endorsed the Republican candidate this time around? Not NYSP-PBA, not the CO’s union, not CSEA, not Teamsters or AFLCIO. When Pataki was Gov, yeah, but that was some time back, and he wasn’t exactly Mr. Slash and Burn. IIRC NYSP-PBA endorsed Sptizer and Patterson.

    Having worked in the LE industry I find it difficult to believe that anyone is being incarcerated to enhance revenue. It’s hard enough to get them into prison, it’s just as hard to keep them there without the sentencing guidelines supporting them. Maybe I’m misinterpreting the claims, but I think some peoples assumptions are slightly off on this.

  12. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    I agree, Bret. I find it hard to believe that judges or even prosecutors consider job security for the prison complex when sentencing offenders. What I think has driven the increase in prison jobs has more to do with the Rockefeller drug laws, the “war on drugs,” and politicians trying to be tough on crime. And it didn’t occur overnight. I think it’s the result of decades of the aforementioned factors. The prison system simply grew to accommodate the increased number of prisoners over the course of years and years.

  13. Linda says:

    You are incorrect..Judges make sentences, but the deparment of corrections decide how long you stay.

  14. Pete Klein says:

    It looks like Hamilton County was lucky to never get any state prisons, now that they are under the gun.
    But look at another side of this coin. For far to long the North Country has been too dependent upon state and federal jobs for employment. Now that both are broke, all state and federal jobs are under the gun. This points out a basic problem when it comes to government “doing something to create jobs.” The easiest way for government to create jobs is for the government to create more government jobs. The problem with this method is obvious. For the government to pay people who work for it, it has to pay its workers from taxes because the government doesn’t make anything that can be sold to people who don’t work for it.

  15. mervel says:

    I think Hamilton County WAS lucky not to get any prisons.

    Prisons are like dope, they work in the short run, they are hell to withdraw from and in the long run they are death.

  16. Bret4207 says:

    Linda, if your friend truly believes he is being kept illegally he needs to contact a lawyer. DOC has to work within sentencing guidelines afaik.

    Pete, good point. That’s part of why smaller gov’t works better in the long run.

  17. Joanne Walsh says:

    Prison where strategically place in upstate New York to boost the economy. When New York has 68 prisons for about 57,000 prisoners. California has over 150,000 prisoners and only 37 prisons. It’s all about money. My husband has been in prison for the last 18 years after being attacked in a bar and he defended himself. He refused a plea and was charged with murder 2. 27 years to life. The man who dies accually died because the BLS crew provided the wrong trauma care. They put mass trauma pants on the man. When the parametics arrived they screamed to remove the pants. protocal for these pants states never to use them on someone with an open chest wound and NEVER remove them in the field because of a fatal drop in blood pressure. Both were done and the young man died a survivable wound. Angrey at my husbands refusal to take a plea his defense attorney worked with the prosecution to send my husband to prison. Now this prosecutor is in private practice in the same building as my husband defense attorney. This happens all the time in New York. It happens so much they had to open a wrongful conviction task force who claims they have put systems in place for this not to keep happening. There were systems in place before. It does not work if they are not followed and no one is held accountable. There is so much more they did to my husband you can view and ask questions on his website Justice for Donald Walsh on Facebook.

  18. Linda says:

    Yes, He is working on it, again it is a slow process.

  19. Pete Klein says:

    Sorry for your situation and what I would like to say about it will not help you or your husband in the least but….
    Never having been a fan of the Criminal Justice System, one of the things I have least liked about it is how it really, really, really wants people to plead guilty and then express sorrow. And if you refuse to do either, further penalize you.
    There was recently a case down in Texas where a guy spent 30 years in prison on a rape conviction and who was recently released because DNA proved him innocent. The double kick in the pants here was that he could already have been out of prison if only he had pleaded guilty and expressed remorse for something he didn’t do.
    You see, the so called good guys want the so called bad guys to plead guilty and express remorse so that the so called good guys can feel morally superior. It’s important to their image.

  20. Linda says:

    Good Morning Peter,
    He was remorseful, he went into a treatment program and was clean two years before he was sentenced. That took way to long also.(sentencing) His lawyer never presented that information we found out later. DWI. Well, it is there game. We are trying to learn how to play it. The sex offenders are getting out before a non violent dwi. I can’t even image why?

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