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Corrections officers from the North Country rallied in Albany on Tuesday, protesting closure of Chateaugay Correctional Facility Photo:  Gary Carlsen, NYSCOPBA, used with permission
Corrections officers from the North Country rallied in Albany on Tuesday, protesting closure of Chateaugay Correctional Facility Photo: Gary Carlsen, NYSCOPBA, used with permission

Guards rally in Albany to block NY prison closures

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Hundreds of prison guards, many from the North Country, rallied yesterday outside the Capitol in Albany, demanding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo cancel a plan to mothball four state prisons in July.

The closure list includes two state prisons in the North Country, Chateaugay Correctional Facility in northern Franklin County, and Mt. McGregor in Saratoga County.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Yesterday's rally was organized by the prison guard union NYSCOPBA.  Photo:  Gary Carlsen, NYSCOPBA, used with permission
Yesterday's rally was organized by the prison guard union NYSCOPBA. Photo: Gary Carlsen, NYSCOPBA, used with permission
“I’m angry that they’re taking the backbone our community away from us,” said Billy Jones, who works at Chateaugay prison and chairs the Franklin County board of legislators. He said the loss of 111 jobs at Chateaugay CFI would “devastate” the economy of the northern part of the county, which already suffers from high unemployment.

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) told the crowd that this latest round of closures is part of Cuomo’s larger effort to dismantle New York’s correction system. She warned that more downsizing would follow if Cuomo’s policies aren’t reversed. “I had eight facilities in my district and I now have six,” Duprey said, arguing that closures had meant more inmate crowding and more risky work conditions for corrections officers.

“Our jails aren’t safe like they used to be safe,” Duprey added. “If this governor continues to have his way, we’ll continue down that slippery slope and we cannot allow that to happen.”

Scott Ramsay (holding sign) says he was injured last week by an inmate at Coxsackie prison.  He blamed prison crowding for creating what he described as an unsafe environment.  Photo:  Gary Carlsen, NYSCOPBA, used with permission
Scott Ramsay (holding sign) says he was injured last week by an inmate at Coxsackie prison. He blamed prison crowding for creating what he described as an unsafe environment. Photo: Gary Carlsen, NYSCOPBA, used with permission
Scott Ramsay, a corrections officer at Coxsackie prison, appeared at Tuesday's rally with severe bruising under his eyes. He said he was assaulted last week by an inmate and argued that crowding has contributed to an unsafe work environment. “He punched me numerous times in my face,” Ramsay said. “I just hope that my vision comes back.”

Despite growing political pressure, Gov. Cuomo has made prison closures a major part of his first term. “We are reducing the madness of an incarceration society and ending a system of unnecessary human and financial waste,” Cuomo argued in his state of the state address in January.

Acting corrections commissioner Anthony Annuci issued a statement when these facility closures were first announced last year, insisting that prisons in Franklin, Saratoga, Schuyler and Wayne County could be closed without impacting “the safety of staff, the inmate population, or the public.” Annucci noted that New York state has already closed nine state prisons as part of Cuomo’s “plan to right-size the prison system.”

The Cuomo administration has earmarked $24 million to help prison towns develop new economic activity following closures. But speaking yesterday, state Senator Betty Little said that fund offers little comfort to rural towns like Chateaugay. “We rely on government jobs,” said Sen. Little. “Until we can get enough private sector jobs, we can’t just shut them down. There’s nothing to take their place.”  

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