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The village of Dannemora, NY and Clinton-Dannemora prison, one of the facilities that remains open here in the North Country. Photo: Natasha Haverty
The village of Dannemora, NY and Clinton-Dannemora prison, one of the facilities that remains open here in the North Country. Photo: Natasha Haverty

Cuomo cuts corrections budget, closes prisons

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Cuomo still plans to close four prisons later this year, including two here in the North Country. In his speech yesterday the Governor also spoke about putting more resources into programs to help offenders return to society and stay in society.

This comes only a few weeks after Cuomo talked about rolling back the "madness" of mass incarceration in New York. The new budget reduces funding for the Department of Corrections by $8 million.

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Reported by

Natasha Haverty
Reporter and Producer

Here in the north country, the closure of Chateaugay and Mt. McGregor will mean the loss of 431 jobs. That means those workers will be transferred to other prisons, some here in the region, and others downstate. Public spokesman for the prison guards’ union NYSCOBA James Miller says that’s going to hurt communities where the economies are especially fragile. 

"It goes well beyond working in those facilities, Miller says. "It’s that they are a large part of that community and dependent upon where they get transferred to there’s a distinct possibility that they would have to move out of that area."

The state’s prison population is lower today than it has been in two decades. Cuomo says there’s actually extra room in the prison system. That’s where the administration, and NYSCOBA, disagree. Miller says closing prisons makes other prisons more crowded, which makes a CO’s job harder, and more dangerous.

"So that’s really created a dangerous environment for the members here. I think if you put out the statistics DOCCS put out in their annual report, the number of assaults on staff is at a 5-year high," said Miller.

The community of Chateaugay continues its fight to keep the prison open. NYSCOBA will be at a rally for federal workers at the end of the month in Albany, protesting the closures. And State Senator Betty Little says it’s not a done deal yet.

"The final budget is usually based upon the governor’s budget but there are changes we can make as we go forward," said Little. who'd like to see Chateaugay used as a rehabilitation and re-entry center, to help reduce the number of inmates who cycle back into prison.

Cuomo' says all of these prison closures—between the nine that have already closed and the four on the chopping block—will save $162 million in taxpayer dollars.

Even with those cuts, prisons are still the second largest state agency in all of New York. The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision employs 29,000 people, according to the latest numbers.

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