A state commission, announced Monday by Gov. Kathy Hochul, will consider ways of developing the vacant prisons in New York that have closed over the last decade.
The effort comes after the latest slate of prison closures in March closed six facilities as the number of incarcerated people have declined across the system in New York to a population not seen since the mid-1980s.
The panel will be be led by Empire State Development Corp. President and CEO Hope Knight and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker.
Officials have touted the taxpayer savings associated with prison closures. But at the same time, the closures have affected the often small and rural communities whose residents are employed by the prisons and correctional camps.
"As New York continues to move forward, we are looking at ways to revitalize our economy, including reimagining shuttered state prison properties as hubs of regional opportunity," Hochul said. "As I promised in my State of the State, I have created a commission of public and private sector leaders, as well as economic development experts from around the country, to best connect our industry and workforce goals with action plans that will both save taxpayer money and bring these buildings to new life as economic engines."
Hochul pledged the overall goal is to "put New Yorkers to work" with the redevelopment.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration had pushed forward with prison closures, a move that had been supported by criminal justice reform advocates. Cuomo had said he did not want prisons to be "economic development programs" for upstate New York.
But many of the facilities that have closed have remained vacant or unused. Hochul has acknowledged the economic concerns created by the closures. She previously raised the possibility of converting the facilities into drug treatment centers.
"Closing prisons is critical to address the blight of mass incarceration, but it can't end there — to achieve justice for all, we must turn every stone and explore prison redevelopment opportunities that ensure individuals and communities have the economic opportunities needed to thrive," said Walker, the Ford Foundation president. "I am honored to join Governor Hochul's prison redevelopment commission to position New York as a leader in reducing prison populations and improving the well-being of communities, towards safety, opportunity and justice for all."
The commission will be rounded out by top officials at the state Department of Labor, as well as the Department of Correcitons and Community Supervision as well as local leaders and the governor's budget director, Robert Mujica.
"During the department's expansion in the early 1990's, communities across New York welcomed the development of new prisons," said Corrections and Community Supervision Commissioner Anthony Annucci. "Today, as the incarcerated population declines and correctional facilities close, it is critical that we identify reuses for these properties to support the communities that accepted the facilities decades ago."