Some state correctional officers may be fighting for their jobs as the governor tries to close a nearly $10 billion budget gap. Our Dean Meminger tells us prisons might be closed across the state
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NEW YORK STATE -- There are about 15,000 fewer inmates in New York state prisons compared to just a dozen years ago. Now, a prisoner advocacy group says it believes Governor Andrew Cuomo is going to announce the closing of several prisons across the state during his budget proposal next week.
"Basically heard or had conversations with people in the correctional justice world that would seem to indicate that people are expecting there to be an major innovative in the governor's budget to close underutilized prisons," said Robert Gangi of Correctional Association of New York.
Published reports suggested three state prisons in the city will be targeted: Lincoln and Bayview in Manhattan and Fulton in the Bronx. When prisoners are about to be set free, they often stay at facilities like these while they participate in work release programs. But many prisons up and downstate have large numbers of unused beds.
"By the system's own count, there are over 8,000 empty beds," Gangi said.
During his State of the State address, the governor hinted at closing prisons suggesting they were staying open to create jobs for correctional officers upstate. Something he has said before.
"You have some prisons that could be closed, but aren't closed because people don't want to lose the state jobs in some areas," Cuomo said in November of 2010.
"Most of the people who fill those prisons come from inner city communities , come from the New York City area. In effect, you had a state policy that benefited one community, upstate white rule community at the expense of another community," Gangi said.
In a statement, the correctional officers' union says it's wrong to shut down prisons.
"The closing of these facilities would exacerbate overcrowding at medium and maximum-security area prisons, which have already had to resort to the extremely dangerous and controversial practice of 'double bunking,' as well as eliminate the only downstate work release programs which are proven to prevent recidivism and decrease violence in our streets," said Donn Rowe, President of NYSCOPBA.
Double bunking is when two inmates are put in a cell designed for one prisoner.
Over the last few years, there's been talk of closing prisons because of a budget gap, but money was put in the budget to keep them open.
If Cuomo does close prisons, it will be quite a turnaround from when his father, Mario Cuomo, was governor in the 80s. He opened more prisons than any other governor before him.