New York plans to close three prisons in the coming weeks. Here's where
ALBANY - New York plans to close three prisons in the coming weeks as it continues to lower its incarceration rates and consolidates its sprawling correctional facilities.
The state said Monday the closures will affect the Watertown prison in northern New York, the Gowanda prison outside Buffalo and the Clinton Annex, which is part of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora near the Canadian border.
The closures will save the state about $89 million a year and a reduce its inventory by about 2,750 beds, state officials 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," said Thomas Mailey, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Mailey said the inmates will be moved into available beds at the state's other 49 facilities, and no layoffs are expected.
He said the state will work with unions on voluntary transfers. The state did not immediately say how many employees worked at the facilities.
"Since taking office, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been at the forefront of some of the nation’s most progressive criminal justice reforms by spearheading a series of smart and fair policies that have closed prisons and decreased incarceration rates," Mailey said.
Since Cuomo took office in 2011, the prison population has declined by more than 22,000 — a 39% reduction — from 57,229 to 34,842 people, according to the state prison system. It is the lowest level in 30 years.
New York has closed more than 17 state prisons over the past decade, and Cuomo was given authority in the state budget this year to move ahead with more.
The state said it will ultimately undertake the decommissioning process and look to find a re-use for the massive facilities.
But that has proven difficult. A review last year by the USA TODAY Network New York found most lay empty and unused since they were shuttered.
Local lawmakers ripped the announcement just days before Christmas.
"Simply put, this is a slap in the face to the dedicated men and women who work in these facilities, as well as their families," Sen. Patty Ritchie, a Republican who represents northern New York.
"Every day, the governor has gone on TV, pontificating about how people are suffering due to this unprecedented pandemic. With this announcement, he’s kicking them when they're down."
Joseph Spector is the Government and Politics Editor for the USA TODAY Network's Atlantic Group, overseeing coverage in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany
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