Displaced NY prison workers to be offered relocation options

State corrections officials say nearly all of the employees at three northern New York prisons slated for closure will be offered the chance to relocate.
Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 6:16 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 23, 2020 at 5:10 AM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - State corrections officials say nearly all of the employees at three northern New York prisons slated for closure will be offered the chance to relocate.

Officials this week announced plans to shut down the Watertown, Gowanda, and Clinton Annex prison facilities. The Clinton Annex is attached to the maximum-security prison in Dannemora and employs nearly 300 of the 975 impacted by the closures. State officials say all employees will be offered the chance to relocate, and that includes to the maximum-security prison in Dannemora. The closures and relocations could have a domino effect on less senior employees.

“There is a trickle-down effect,” said Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake. “Obviously, somebody with the seniority here in the area wants to stay in the area. That’s why they are here, so they might bump somebody else.”

There are some open jobs at the main prison and they hope to be able to absorb many of the displaced workers. Even so, there has been a lot of outrage over the announcement Monday, partly because of the role these prison jobs play in the local economy.

But groups like the Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York are praising the closures. “Yes, they are jobs. Yes, they are good-paying jobs. But in the long run, they are not good jobs for the community,” said the group’s Karen Murtagh. “It’s the type of job that increases alcoholism, depression, mental health problems, suicide, domestic violence. Those are not the types of jobs that we should as a state be promoting.”

Murtagh says incarceration is an awful situation for anybody and that closing prisons because there are fewer people in them is good news for the state. “We shouldn’t over incarcerate,” she said.

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision says since 2011, prison populations have decreased by 22,000 inmates and that the current total is just under 35,000.

Murtagh said prison isn’t the only avenue anymore and that people are sent to rehab and treatment for drugs or mental illness and the crime rate overall is down. “It is a result of good legislative action, good criminal justice policy over the past decade-and-a-half that has resulted in a significantly reduced prison population,” she said.

The state has nine days to finalize the closures, move the inmates, and reassign the jobs that will be lost.

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New York to close 3 prisons, including Clinton Annex

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