Skip Navigation
Regional News
Franklin County legislator Billy Jones calls for action to stop the closure of Chateaugay Correctional Facility in his home town. Photo: Brian Mann
Franklin County legislator Billy Jones calls for action to stop the closure of Chateaugay Correctional Facility in his home town. Photo: Brian Mann

Another North Country town rallies to save its prison

Listen to this story
This year, we're looking in-depth at the North Country's prison industry, how it grew into one of the region's top employers and how it's changing.

Over the weekend, hundreds of corrections officers, families, and elected officials gathered in Chateaugay in northern Franklin County.

They came to protest the latest round of state prison closures, now slated for 2014.

Four correctional facilities are on the chopping block, including two here in the North Country -- Mt. McGregor in Saratoga County and Chateaugay Correctional Facility.

Hear this

Download audio

Share this


Explore this

Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

 This story is part of NCPR's Prison Time Media Project.

At first glance, the huge gathering at Chateaugay’s recreation park looks like an autumn fair.  There’s face-painting, kids with plastic noise-makers – the smell of hotdogs and burgers.

Hundreds of people turned out on Saturday to protest Governor Cuomo's latest round of prison closures, which will affect two facilities in the North Country. Photo: Brian Mann
Hundreds of people turned out on Saturday to protest Governor Cuomo's latest round of prison closures, which will affect two facilities in the North Country. Photo: Brian Mann
Then Billy Jones – chair of Franklin County’s legislature and a local here in Chateaugay opens the microphone. "I'd like to welcome everyone here and thank you all for coming to support our community and our effort to keep Chateaugay Correctional Facility open," he says.

This is a political rally – an event that’s grown far more common in recent years as New York state has moved swiftly to mothball prisons – including Camp Gabriels, also in Franklin County, as well as Lyon Mountain, just next door in Clinton County.

"This is one of the largest businesses in the NOrth Country," state Senator Betty Little tells the crowd.

At this facility, more than 110 jobs are at stake, but state Senator Betty Little says decisions being made in Albany are also reshaping a way of life in the region.

"It's one of the largest employers in the North Country and I've had people in Albany say that the corrections officers in the North Country are among the best," she adds.

Jimmy Lord is a corrections officer at Cheateaugay, who’s worked there for 8 years, and is also a member of the NYSCOPBA prison guards union.

He says mothballing this correctional facility will throw his life – and the life of his neighbors – into turmoil.

"I think it's going to be devastating to the local economy, the village economy, the town economy, the county economy," he says.

Local officials here point out that in addition to lost jobs, the correctional facility is hard-wired into their local infrastructure and contributes more than $50 thousand a year for maintenance of the wastewater treatment plant.

It’s unclear how much rallies like this will influence Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has argued repeatedly that declining inmate populations make prison closures like this one common sense. 

Following major changes to the Rockefeller drug laws, and a drop in crime rates, the number of people behind bars in New York has plummeted by 24%.

Donn Rowe who heads NYSCOPBA, the prison guard union, was in Chateaugay for Saturday's rally. Photo: Brian Mann
Donn Rowe who heads NYSCOPBA, the prison guard union, was in Chateaugay for Saturday's rally. Photo: Brian Mann
Donn Rowe is head of NYSCOPBA, the largest corrections officer union in New York.  He says some prisons in New York are still double-bunked and overcrowded.

And he says he hopes the size of rallies like the one in Chateaugay will force state officials to rethink their downsizing plan.

"I haven't seen anything that has changed the governor's mind as far as the direction he took by executive fiat in July," Rowe acknowledged.

The state corrections department says all of the prison guards at Chateaugay Correctional Facility will be given posts at other prisons.  Some could be reassigned to facilities as close as Malone or Ogdensburg.

But others may be forced to travel downstate or two western New York.

State Senator Betty Little says this latest uncertainty is only the latest chapter in a bigger story – a shift by New York state to downsize its presence in the North Country.

"Unfortunately, we've been dependant on government for our economy, so when all these jobs go away it pulls the rug out from under us," she said.

Local residents and officials say they just don’t see opportunities for private industry to pick up the slack, offering the kind of jobs that can replace the middle-class salaries that a state job provides.

Visitor comments

on:

NCPR is supported by:

This is a Visitor-Supported website.