2011 Prison Closures are Disappointing, but Expected

07Jul11

On Friday, July 1, 2011 Governor Cuomo announced the specific prisons that his administration will close in the coming year. These closures comply with the 2011 Budgetrequirement that the state close 3,800 prison beds due to a declining inmate population and in an effort to reduce state spending.

The state’s closure plan includes four male minimum security facilities and three male medium security facilities.  These facilities are either in close proximity to urban areas, where the majority of people in prison call home, or provide programs that reduce recidivism.

Many more obsolete correctional facilities are ready to be converted into savings for New York’s taxpayers.  The Governor not only missed the urgent opportunity to close more prisons, but he failed to meet the challenge he so strongly gave himself in his 2011 State of the State Address, “Incarceration is not a jobs program.”  If he had closed just one North County prison, he would have acknowledged the truth of his January speech.

What Cuomo needs to better understand is that farms, not prisons, are our state’s hope.  New York is a place where agriculture and economies can grow.  The Governor cannot tie our rural communities to a backwards, doomed corrections system.  He must promote viable industries that will help the North Country put healthy food on tables not downstate people in cages.

The numbers of people in New York’s prisons are declining.  The number of people ready to work in New York is not.   Let’s put the unemployed to work building a robust food economy.

Communities affected by the closures will be able to request economic development assistance from the state, which includes money from a $50 million fund as well as additional tax credits available to help end the reliance on prisons as the major source of employment and economic sustainability.  This fund would make much more of an impact if it is applied to rural areas where prisons dominate a small, undiversified, local economy.

Governor Cuomo’s closure plan reinforces the importance of MILK NOT JAILS’s work to build a new urban-rural relationship.  We hope that our new line of dairy products will demonstrate the growth potential of other economic sectors and make a case for more rural, distant prisons to be closed in the future.  And we’ll be watching that $50 million reinvestment fund to see if there are opportunities for MILK NOT JAILS to apply for those tax dollars and build a new urban-rural relationship.

The prison closure list includes: Buffalo Work Release (Erie County), Camp Georgetown (Madison County), Summit Shock (Schoharie County) and Fulton Work Release (Bronx County); Arthur Kill (Richmond County), Mid-Orange (Orange County) and Oneida (Oneida County).

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