We’re now just a few months away from the closure of six prisons across the state. For some of the smaller communities, like Southport, this is creating a fear about the future of their towns.
“We were devastated. These closures made absolutely no sense,” said Mark DeBurgomaster, NYSCOBA Western Region vice president.
“That’s someone making 50, 60, $70,000 a year that’s out of the area,” said Southport resident Jon Machmer.
The small town of Southport is still in shock after news that one of their leading employers is shutting its doors in 2022. Close to 500 employees that work at the Southport Correctional Facility will now be forced to find new work as the state moves to close the prison.
“They’re extremely angry. They’ve been working straight through this pandemic. They’ve had to adjust with all the changes that have come to this facility like with every other facility," said DeBurgomaster.
The state is citing a declining prison population as just one of the reasons for the closure of several facilities this coming year. According to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Southport currently houses just under 300 inmates.
But members of the state’s Correctional Officers Benevolent Association say these moves aren’t taking into account the effects on families.
“There are officers here that are literally traveling two and a half, two hours and forty five minutes just to come to work. That’s put a huge strain on families. Obviously, a financial strain on them because now they have to find another place to live,” said DeBurgomaster.
Residents like Machmer worry that a move like this could cut down on an already dwindling statewide population.
“Many people have left this area before and that’s with us having two jails here. With the one gone, they’re going to go. They have no choice. It’s too expensive with gas going up to travel back and fourth,” said Machmer.
Machmer is a former corrections officer himself, and says traveling to work at another prison may not be an option for many of those now losing their jobs.
“It’s a pain. I traveled 57 miles one way to go to work for a very long time, just because you can’t get back to the places because with them closing the jails, there’s just no way of getting back,” said Machmer.
The prison is expected to shut its doors in March of next year.