Prison closures announced

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“An incarceration program is not an employment program. Don’t put other people in prison to give some people jobs. That’s not what this state is all about” – Gov. Andrew Cuomo, State of the State Address, January 2011

The CA applauds the Governor Cuomo for his decision this year to nearly a dozen adult prisons and juvenile facilities, the most significant commitment to downsizing since the prison-building boom of the 1980s. The plan includes seven minimum- and medium-security facilities for men: Arthur Kill; Buffalo Work Release; Camp Georgetown; Fulton Work Release; Mid-Orange; Oneida; and Summit Shock. Four juvenile facilities have been closed and four will remain in operation at reduced capacity.

Closing prisons is long overdue: New York’s adult prison population has dropped by over 15,500 in the past decade and the system has nearly 8,000 empty beds maintained at enormous cost.  These closures will eliminate 3,800 beds and save taxpayers nearly $200 million over two years.

While we commend Mr. Cuomo for his leadership, we are concerned that nearly all of the state facilities slated for closure are within a short distance of New York City, which is home to more than 60% of adults in the system and the majority of youth in the State’s care. Closing downstate facilities will result in the incarceration of even more people far from their homes, which can increase the trauma of parental incarceration on children and prevents children and adults from maintaining the critical family and community ties needed for a successful re-entry. The closure of Arthur Kill in Staten Island, an effectively run prison with numerous programs and one of the few facilities where lifers and long termers could be housed close to their loved ones, is particularly troubling. It is also disconcerting that these prison closures will eliminate one-third of the state’s work release beds – an already underutilized program that helps people in prison gain critical employment skills, preparing them for a smooth transition back to their communities.