Advocates, correctional officers’ union react to planned closure of state prisons

New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — The Cuomo Administration’s plan to shutdown three state prison facilities has brought praise from some and criticism from others.

The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has chosen the Watertown prison, Gowanda prison and the Clinton Annex to shutter their doors. State officials say it will save the state $89 million per year. 

In a statement DOCCS spokesperson Thomas Mailey said, “While conducting the review, DOCCS based the decision on a variety of factors, including but not limited to physical infrastructure, program offerings, facility security level, specialized medical and mental health services, other facilities in the area to minimize the impact to staff, potential reuse options and areas of the State where prior closures have occurred in order to minimize the impact to communities.”

But, the decision is being criticized by the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association. NYSCOPBA’s president Mike Powers says it will affect more than 900 of its members.

“He effectively ruined 900 families and their Christmas in a year that we can’t soon pass fast enough,” Powers said of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  

DOCCS says even with the closures, it does not anticipate layoffs. “We’re hoping to absorb some of these individuals into some of the other facilities as they move the inmates into the other facilities and we’re hoping to do so with very little disruption to our members families and their communities and the places where they reside, their children go to school and worship and whatnot,” Powers said. 

Meanwhile in a statement Jose Saldana, the Director of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign said in part,  “Upstate prisons cannot be a jobs program. We welcome these prison closures but know that far more needs to be done to reduce the state prison population at a time when record-breaking numbers of incarcerated people are infected with COVID-19.”

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