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View from a subway platform in Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the neighborhoods in New York city with the highest concentration of men and women admitted to prison. Photo: Natasha Haverty
View from a subway platform in Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the neighborhoods in New York city with the highest concentration of men and women admitted to prison. Photo: Natasha Haverty

Cuomo: "reducing the madness of an incarceration society"

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Cuomo also talked about the state of prisons in New York yesterday. And according to the Governor, there's good news, and there's bad news.

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Reported by

Natasha Haverty
Reporter and Producer

Cuomo started with his good news. The crime rate is down, and so is the prison population: for the first time in decades, New York is pulling back on how many people it incarcerates.

We are reducing the madness of an incarceration society and ending a system of unnecessary human and financial waste. And now we have eliminated 5500 prison beds. 

Some of those prison beds were here in the north country—the state recently closed its facilities at Camp Gabriels and Lyon Mountain, and this year, Chateauguy and Mt McGregor both face the serious possibility of shutting down. State Senator Betty Little, speaking yesterday afternoon, said Cuomo’s language about New York's prison industry doesn't play well in the North Country, where corrections work is a major part of the economy.

It doesn’t, and I think we think differently about crime we think that there should be punishment and penalties for committing crimes and I’m not so sure that people in the New York City area or the metropolitan area think about that as much as we do.

But the majority of men and women behind bars here in New York are from metropolitan areas, and according to Cuomo, it’s actually the moment when they get out, and go back home that needs more of the state’s resources.

The bad news is there’s a revolving door where forty percent of the people who are released from prison wind up back in prison.

He said the way to change that is more job training, and more access for the thousands of people re-entering society with a felony on their record.

Reducing recidivism means less crime, it means safer communities, it means fewer tax payer dollars being spent on incarceration.

And Senator Little says she supports the idea of boosting programs designed to stop that revolving door, and acknowledges that a lot of the vocational and educational programs prisons had in the past have lost funding and aren’t there any more.

I don’t think we’re doing a great job in the transitional area as we transition people from the prison population to the community. 

The corrections officer union NYSCOPBA plans a rally in Albany at the end of the month, to try and build support for preventing further prison closures.

And in addition to the “re-entry council” he proposed, Cuomo also committed to putting more resources into public safety for kids. New York state is currently one of only two states—the other is North Carolina—that incarcerates 16-year-olds as adults. Cuomo announced a committee to change that.

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