Mar 28, 2011 — It's still unclear how the state budget deal reached over the weekend in Albany will affect the North Country's prison industry. But it appears likely that at least one of the region's correctional facilities will be considered for closure. Governor Cuomo convinced lawmakers to eliminate 3,700 prison beds statewide.
If approved, the plan would give the Department of Correctional Services "sole discretion" to choose which prisons might be closed or downsized, according to a statement issued by Cuomo's office yesterday. The budget agreement requires the governor to "consult" with the legislature before making a final decision.
In an interview with the Watertown Daily Times, North Country Assemblywoman Addie Russell described the prison-cutting plan as "difficult to swallow." According to Russell, it's "likely" that the region will see one of its prisons close.
The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, is reporting that the prison cuts will be spread through Republican and Democratic districts. If so, that would be a victory for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who has promised to protect jobs in upstate communities that rely on the prison industry.
Many Democrats and prison reform activists have pushed to close North Country prisons, which they say are too far from the families and communities of many offenders. This region has already seen two prisons close in recent years -- in Gabriels north of Saranac Lake and in Lyon Mountain, in Clinton County. The state corrections department has also threatened to close facilities in Moriah and Ogdensburg.