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Upstate lawmakers question prison closures

The Department of Corrections plan to close four upstate prisons due to a reduction in crime has angered district lawmakers. In 2011 the department closed seven prisons statewide. The new plan is to close four additional prisons. Sen. Kathleen Marchione said the closing of the prisons is a disappointment and calls for a plan of action to ensure public safety. Photo by AP.
August 06, 2013
Upstate lawmakers are angry after the Department of Corrections announced plans to close four prisons next year.

In a July 26 press release, Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Commissioner Anthony Annucci announced the closing of Butler, Chateaugay, Monterey Shock, and Mt. McGregor prisons, due to New York's shrinking prison population.

"In response to a reduced crime rate that has shrunk our inmate population, we are continuing to right size the state's costly prison system and saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually," said Annucci. "This reform plan was made with careful consideration and detailed analysis to ensure we are not impacting the safety of each facility's employees and the public."

According to Annucci, closing the prisons would save New York taxpayers $30 million annually and includes no layoffs for prison workers instead purposes to transition them into nearby facilities; however, lawmakers feel the plan would hurt communities already struggling economically.

"I was blindsighted by the decision to close," said Sen. Thomas O'Mara, R-Big Flats. "Last year was the 25th anniversary of Monterey Shock. It was praised. What changed in one year?"

Monterey Shock was New York state's first shock facility, a program that resembles a military style regimen that focuses on discipline, physical training, work, and education. At its 25th anniversary celebration, the Department of Correction praised the program's unique blend of counseling and discipline resulting in a low recidivism rate and savings of $1.3 billion for the state.

O'Mara criticized the Department of Corrections calling the agency "top-heavy" for their decision to close more prisons but hire more administrators.

Sen. Kathleen Marchione, R-Halfmoon, released a statement about the Mt. McGregor's closing, calling the decision disappointing and urging protection of the workers and host community.

"Today's announcement by the Cuomo Administration that the Mt. McGregor Correction Facility has been targeted for closure is disappointing and demands an action plan — and actual follow through — that will ensure the public safety professionals working at the facility are protected and the financial needs of the host communities are met," said Marchione.

Mt. McGregor, located in Saratoga County, is a medium security prison housing 445 prisoners with a staff of 320.

In 2011, the state closed seven prisons in Erie, Schoharie, Madison, Bronx, Orange, Richmond and Oneida counties. The closings were estimated to save $184 million in tax revenue.

Since 2009, a total of 11 prisons have been closed, with 2,000 correctional positions lost.

In the DOCCS announcement, Annucci notes that crime overall has dropped 15 percent statewide and there has been a 71 percent reduction in drug offenders in custody. Violent crime such as murder and assault have seen 13 percent reduction. The overall prison population has fallen from 71,600 to 54,600.

Also slated for closure is Chateaugay correctional facility, a former drug and substance abuse treatment facility, now houses mostly parole violators with short holds.

"It's a total surprise," said Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Plattsburgh. "I think it's a mistake to close this prison. It's a vital part of the economy. When nobody would take prisons, the North Country stepped up, now we're facing the third closing in four years."

The Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit with legislative authority to inspect state prisons, has previously supported the decision to cut back on state prisons, but worry that the state is closing too many minimum and medium security prisons.

"Last Friday, DOCCS announced the closure of four additional prisons — one minimum-security and three medium-security facilities. As always, the Correctional Association is supportive of prison closures," said Executive Director Soffiyah Elijah. "However, a growing concern is that as the Governor continues with his trend of closing minimum- and medium-security prisons there will be fewer lower security facilities available to move people who are currently designated to maximum-security, if their classifications are reviewed and reduced. This means that those people will not have the important opportunity to adjust to a less restrictive environment before their release to the community, thereby making their successful re-entry more difficult."

Elijah instead called for the closing of more maximum security prisons, saying that better classification and the review of the classification of prisoners could lead to lower risk levels giving some a better chance for re-entry into society upon release.

Daniel O'Donnell, D-Morningside Heights, the Assembly Committee on Corrections chair, wants to examine the budget to see how the Department of Corrections reached the decision over which prisons to close.

"I'm very happy they are complying with the law in giving them one year notice," said O'Donnell. "But the question of how and the impact will have to be looked at within the budget. What I'm wondering is why one prison over another. I'm hoping through the budget to learn more about it."

Unlike in 2011, the governor has announced no plan for economic development for the communities that host the prisons.

"It's more tough news for a region already reeling from devastating job losses and coming on the heels of the Cuomo administration's recent announcement that it plans to shut down inpatient services at the Elmira Psychiatric Center," said O'Mara. "Once again I'll say that the goals of downsizing and cost-effectiveness in government are moves in the right direction. But the Cuomo administration's approach appears to be taking a particular toll on our region and other upstate communities and, in my view, it's not making fiscal sense."

  1. print email
    Insanity !
    August 06, 2013 | 08:59 PM

    Prisons are not about employment opportunities or the welfare of prison guards. The warning that the latest round of closures brings to the communities
    that host state prisons is not about organizing to maintain the status
    quo for the community but instead dealing with the challenge of finding
    means to provide economic growth that will smooth the way if another
    prison is closed. We are witnessing plenty of transformations in our
    economy. Upstate New York’s economy is over-reliant on these types of government services. Communities across the north country need to band together to invest in leadership that will focus attention on encouraging private sector investment. The agenda for tomorrow is not a reprise of yesterday. It requires thoughtful change, flexibility and a posture that enhances risk-taking. We still have time to shift from our dependence on government but only if we assemble leaders willing to devote energy to investment, education and self-reliance. Every business and nonprofit has a stake in loosening the reins of state dominance over our economy. This is a good thing. Anything else said to stop it is nonsense.

  2. print email
    Butler ASAT located in Red Creek, New York (Wayne County)
    September 22, 2013 | 08:19 PM

    Butler ASAT (Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment), is schedule to close on July 26, 2013 and we would like the public to know "we are not going down without a fight." We have a 95% completion rate for the inmates to get treated of drugs and alcohol abuse. we have also provided community services to all the surrounding communities saving the taxpayers. We have helped Wayne, Oswego, Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga to list a few. we would love if more news and newspapers would take an interest and are welcome to come and do interviews with community members and employees of Butler ASAT. Also we are having a "Rally to Save Butler ASAT on October 10th, 2013 at Wolcott Elks Club in Wolcott, New York 14590 from 7-9 p.m. and everyone is welcome. Contact info: Chief Sector Steward for Butler ASAT(NYSCOPBA). James MacDonald 315-592-1839

    Teri MacDonald
  3. print email
    Planned Clousure of Monterey Shock
    December 03, 2013 | 08:24 PM

    I hope that The Correctional Association of NY will look at the history of Monterey Shock and support it coming off the planned clousure list. The facility was built to hold 300 inmates and with a 6 month stay could handle 600 inmates a year saving NYS taxpayers over 1.4 BILLION dollars. At the 25th anniversary in Sept 2012 Gov Cuomo sent a proclaimation that praised the program that his father Mario Cuomo created as being a groundbreaking correctional alternative. Then 10months later its on the chopping block. Its closer to Lakeview where the shock readys are held. It provided work crews to the DOCS facilitys at Elmira, Southport and 5points as well as Willard DTC. The work crews also saved other state agencys like DOT, EnCon,NYS Fire Academy and the NYS Parks System Tens of Thousands of man hours that they will be hard pressed to replace in these tough times. The crews also provided manpower for the Army Corp of Engineers who maintain the dike system along the rivers in the central southern teir. They also worked for the Finger Lakes National Forest. But, it is the local communitys who will be hit hardest by this lack of manpower. Cities, Townships and Villages in the 3 surrounding counties of Schuyler, Chemung, and Steuben will have to increase taxes to maintain cemetarys & parks and public buildings in the future. The Community service part of the Monterey Shock Incarceration program gives young men a work ethic and team building skills along with a sense of pride that is key to creating a new life on the street. Plus, they know they are making a difference. That is priceless. If DOCS is selling the Bayview CF in Manhatten for what property is worth in NYC then they should be able to come up with the $30million they seek to save by closing 4 other facilitys. I hear this week that the Supt at Otisville CF in Orange county has been told that they are going to be the next to close. When is this rightsizing going to end? The USA Today recently had an article on the increase in crime in America. Most of it was the type of crime that Shock Incarceration was created to take care of. But, with only 2 facilitys in the programs future. No one will sign up for a 6 month program if they have to wait a year to get in a platoon. Already Lakeview is filled and Moriah continues to receive new platoons, while those who want to do the program are just sitting in reception centers waiting. Shock works, it has for 25years and Monterey's infrastructure has been fully renovated in the last 6yrs with all new roofs,windows and a complete new water treatment system that cost nearly $2Million less than 2 years ago. If they are going to close it, that is a huge waste of taxpayer money. Call Gov.Cuomo's office at 518-474-8390 and let him know that closing Monterey is the wrong choice. Thank You. Rick Hughey Retired Drill Instructor Monterey Shock Incarceration CF

    Rick Hughey
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