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Does the North Country prison industry have a future?
Does the North Country prison industry have a future?

The case against North Country prisons

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On the heels of a massive, 2,000 person rally last week, those trying to keep Ogdensburg's state prison open are getting ready to make their case in Albany. Closing the prison would eliminate 287 jobs, an annual payroll of some $22 million. According to the Ogdensburg Journal, a local task force is sending two buses next Tuesday to Albany to lobby lawmakers and rally on the capital steps. B

ut people who want to see the prisons close held rallies of their own this week. The Corrections Association of New York, a prison reform group, brought 400 people to the state capital on Wednesday.

Director Robert Gangi says the current budget deficit makes contracting the prison system a must. "The state's inmate population has dropped by nearly 14,000 inmates," Gangi says. "There are either 6,000 empty beds or 5,000 empty beds in the state's prison system. Given that it costs the department of correctional services $55,000 a year to maintain a bed whether it's occupied or whether it's empty, we think that it's the moment when the state should move forward very aggressively to downsize the prison system." Gangi says New York's economic development agency should help communities like Ogdensburg find a new use for closing prisons.

A 2004 study by another reform group, the Sentencing Project, compared rural towns in New York where prisons were built to non-prison ones. Executive director Marc Mauer told David Sommerstein it found prisons had little effect on the overall rural economy and may even have hurt it.

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