Six facilities that are part of New York's prison system will close next March amid a decade-long decline in the number of people the state incarcerates.
The closures, announced Monday by state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision officials, scheduled for March 10, 2022 are:
- Ogdensburg Correctional Facility
- Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility
- Willard Drug Treatment Campus
- Southport Correctional Facility
- Downstate Correctional Facility
- Rochester Correctional Facility
No layoffs are anticipated, a spokesman said, and the cost-cutting through the closures is expected to save $142 million.
"DOCCS 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," said spokesman Tom Mailey in a statement. "DOCCS does not anticipate any layoffs due to these closures."
State officials reviewed about 50 facilities for potential closure before selecting the six that will close next year. All of the facilities slated for closure have populations below 1,000 people and some are operating at less than half capacity.
The closures are the latest in a line of prison facilities to be shuttered by New York in the last 10 years as the number of people in prison has steadily declined.
New York's population of incarcerated people stands at 31,469 people, the lowest number since 1984.
Gov. Kathy Hochul last month acknowledged the economic toll taken by the prison closures, especially in upstate communities. She suggested her administration was reviewing whether to convert some of the facilities into substance abuse treatment centers.
The union that represents correctional officers said there is a need for safe prisons given the violence his members face.
“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," said NYSCOPBA President Michael Powers in a statement. "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."
Republican officials also criticized the planned closures.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, where Downstate Correctional Facility is located and a congressional candidate, said there has been no plan for that facility's closing.
“Today’s announcement about the closure of the Downstate Correctional Facility has taken Dutchess County by surprise. There has been no coordination between the Governor’s Office and Dutchess County on the closure of this large facility, nor a coordinated plan for the future use of the parcel and the hundreds of workers who will be affected," Molinaro said in a statement. "Make no mistake: Inmates at Downstate are not being released; they will simply be transferred to remaining State prisons or to county jails throughout New York. Today's announcement only leaves Dutchess County with more questions than answers.”
But adovcates for criminal justice law changes called for further action from the Hochul administration, including the more frequent use of clemency and action on measures meant to make parole easier for older people in prison.
"The governor must use her clemency powers frequently, inclusively, and transparently. She can and should end mass incarceration with the stroke of a pen," said Jose Saldana, the director of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign. "The legislature must pass the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills. Without these measures, and despite these closures, thousands will continue to needlessly languish behind bars."