New York Budget Proposal Includes Prison Closures

NEW YORK — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new budget proposal recommends his state should close two correctional facilities because of a lack of cost effectiveness in their operations.

The governor explained his state was dedicating close to $70,000 per inmate each year at the Beacon Correctional Facility in Dutchess County, with even more funding going to the Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan. Cuomo added that the target for efficient prison operations was closer to $34,000 per inmate.

“It is not right, we can’t afford it,” said the governor. “If we are serious about balancing the budget, let’s run government the way it should be run. We should close these two facilities.”

Closing the two correctional facilities would eliminate 432 beds from the incarceration system and the governor expects a savings of around $19 million through 2014, with an additional $62 million being realized the following year. The larger number includes a plan to sell the Bayview facility, which has been left vacant since an evacuation was conducted in anticipation of the arrival of Superstorm Sandy in October.

Current New York law prevents the governor from closing the facilities with less than a year’s notice, meaning he will need the legislature’s approval to speed up the process and achieve the maximum amount of savings. That approval would allow the facilities to close within 60 days. This was not the first time the governor has come forward with this type of plan, he has closed several prisons during his time as the state’s chief executive.

Cuomo also assured current employees at the two facilities that they would be absorbed into the current correctional system and would not lose their jobs.

Randy Casale, the mayor of Beacon, was less than thrilled about the proposal, explaining that, “Any impact when you lose jobs, no matter where it comes from, hurts the economy in the valley.”

Donn Rowe, president of the union representing state correctional workers, the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, was also displeased by the governor’s suggestion.

He explained his position in a recent statement: “By once again jamming more inmates into fewer locations, the state will drive up the inmate to officer ratio and increase the risk of violent incidents inside correctional facilities. Coupled with the state’s consistent inability to sufficiently staff state facilities, the proposals introduced today will increase the level of danger for our members.”