6 prisons across NYS to close; some functions moving to Chautauqua County

Around New York State

(WIVB) — Six prisons in New York are slated to close next year.

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) released a statement, noting that the closure of the following prisons is estimated to save New Yorkers roughly $142 million:

  • Ogdensburg Correctional Facility
    • Medium security
    • Staff: 268
    • Incarcerated individuals: 158
    • Capacity: 557
  • Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility
    • Minimum security
    • Staff: 107
    • Incarcerated individuals: 74
    • Capacity: 300
  • Willard Drug Treatment Campus
    • Medium security
    • Staff: 329
    • Incarcerated individuals: 168
    • Capacity: 664
  • Southport Correctional Facility
    • Maximum security
    • Staff: 405
    • Incarcerated individuals: 286
    • Capacity: 441
  • Downstate Correctional Facility
    • Maximum security
    • Staff: 644
    • Incarcerated individuals: 688
    • Capacity: 1,221
  • Rochester Correctional Facility
    • Minimum security
    • Staff: 26
    • Incarcerated individuals: 46
    • Capacity: 70

At the close of business on March 10, 2022, these facilities will officially close.

Despite the closures, DOCCS anticipates zero layoffs. It says it “will work closely with the various bargaining units to provide staff with opportunities for priority placement via voluntary transfers, as well as priority employment at other facilities or other state agencies as a result of the formal Civil Service process that is followed with the closure of a correctional facility.”

The prisoners will be transferred to other facilities. Additionally, the following changes will take place:

  • Drug Treatment Campus functions will be relocated to Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in Chautauqua County.
  • Rochester’s work release program will be moved to Orleans Correctional Facility.
  • Elmira Correctional Facility “will expand its reception footprint to absorb the incoming who would have first gone to Downstate Correctional Facility,” DOCCS says.

The upcoming closures follow the state’s review of its 50 correctional facilities. Factors taken into consideration include infrastructure, program offerings, security level, specialized medical and mental health services, proximity to other facilities and potential re-use options.

Plus, there has been a dramatic decline in New York prison populations since 1999. In fact, the number of people currently incarcerated in state facilities is less than half of what it was that year.

As of Monday, 31,469 people are behind bars in state correctional facilities. 22 years ago, that number reached a high of 72,773.

Since the start of 2020, the state prison population has gone down by more than 12,700. Right now, it’s at its lowest point since 1984.

DOCCS says “New York leading the nation with the lowest imprisonment rate of any large state.”

“New York State continues to be at the forefront of some of the nation’s most progressive criminal justice reforms by spearheading smart and fair policies that have resulted in a drastic decline in the incarcerated population,” they said in a statement.

But despite the state’s plans to have no layoffs with these closures, the president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA) is not happy about it.

Michael Powers, who the union says represents 21,000 NYSCOPBA members, criticized the move, saying these kinds of decisions “upend lives and destroy communities.”

“If people have been paying attention to the past decade of poor decisions made by our elected leaders in Albany, today’s news shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. The State’s progressive polices are costly and need to be funded somehow. Sadly it’s at the expense of the hard working men and women of NYSCOPBA. The numbers tell the real story; despite closing over two dozen facilities the past 10 years, violent attacks on our members have doubled and yet nothing is being done to address it. Where is the reinvestment in the facilities to make these prisons safer working environments? My heart goes out to all of the individuals whose lives have been severely impacted by this announcement and know that our organization will hold the department accountable every step of the way. At some point, the State needs to realize that these choices are more than just buildings and tax-saving measures, these are life-altering decisions that upend lives and destroy communities.”

Michael Powers, NYSCOPBA president

The process of closing the above-mentioned prisons will immediately begin.

Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Now