The New York State Department of Corrections announced Monday that Clinton Correctional Facility Annex will close early next year, sparking outrage from several North Country elected officials over the timing of the State’s decision and the impact it may have on employees and families.
The Annex is an extension of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora and operates as a maximum security prison. Local lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed frustration upon hearing that the facility will be shuttered.
“Four days before Christmas, what a punch in the gut,” said Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake). “I know the Department of Corrections has said there’s not going to be job loss, but there certainly will be some job relocation out of this, and whenever you have that it certainly disrupts that employee, and it’s a huge disruption to their families.”
The main facility won’t be impacted by the closure, and as Jones said, employees’ jobs are reportedly safe. Dannemora Town Supervisor Bill Chase (R) said that doesn’t mean the estimated 300 employees at the Annex won’t be affected in some way.
“It’s devastating to the local economy, bad news for the village, bad news for the county, and bad news for the town,” Chase said. “They’ve got teachers there, they’ve got maintenance people, foodservice people. With Watertown closing too, the effects are going to be far-reaching.”
The Clinton Annex isn’t the only State prison now slated to shut down at the end of March. Medium security facilities in Gowanda and Watertown will close as well.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) released a statement on Monday condemning the decision, which was made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.
“In his latest misguided attempt to weaken our law enforcement and make New York less safe, Governor Cuomo is pulling the rug out from our correction officers, their families, and our North Country communities after an already challenging year,” Rep. Stefanik said.
Other North Country lawmakers taking a stand against the changes State Senator-elect Dan Stec (R) and outgoing State Senator Betty Little (R).
“The Governor is doing this under the authority given to him as part of the 2020 NYS budget,” Stec said. “I was adamantly opposed to this 90 day notice allowing the Governor to close a correctional facility and it’s one of the reasons I voted against the budget.”
Sen. Little noted that she’s seen several North Country prisons shut down during her time in office, and while she isn’t completely opposed to the concept, she said there’s been a glaring issue all along.
“Every one of these buildings are still empty, there is no reuse,” Little said. “If I could have seen one success yet with some of the places that have already been closed, I might feel differently. We’ve had no success in doing anything else with them.”
A key Empire State union that represents corrections officers has come out against the closures as well.
“The Governor called for facility closures back in January, and obviously COVID hit,” said Michael Powers, President of NYSCOPBA. “We attempted to have dialogue back and forth with the Department, the Governor and State Legislature, which fell on deaf ears.”
The closures come as New York State faces a budget defecit $8.7 billion. 17 New York prisons have been shuttered since 2011. The prison population has shrunk by 39 percent in that time.