CHATEAUGAY — About 600 gathered Saturday at the Chateaugay Recreation Park to protest the scheduled closure of Chateaugay Correctional Facility.
“We believe (this) was a simple budget decision and was not thought through,” said Don Rowe, president of New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA).
Chateaugay Correctional Facility — scheduled to close July 26, 2014 — is a medium security prison that currently houses 234 inmates, six short of its capacity.
Its closure will be the third prison to be shut down in the North Country since 2009 when the state closed Camp Gabriels. Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility was shuttered in 2011.
While the 111 employees that work at the prison will be placed at other correctional facilities, the closure will still be a loss of 111 North Country jobs in a town of 833 residents, New York State Senator Betty Little said.
“This is one of the largest employers in the North Country. We need to fight this tooth and nail.”
State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said county jails are overwhelmed with convicts who should be in state prison.
And Rowe said there’s already overcrowding in the prisons.
There are 10,000 inmates in the system who share their sleeping area with another inmate, sometimes called “double bunking,” Rowe said.
That creates a safety issue for both staff and inmates, Rowe said, and the problem worsens with each prison closure as inmates are relocated and prisons fill up.
“They (state officials) need to put a plan in place and get an inside look at these facilities,” said Chris Hickey, executive vice president of NYSCOPBA.
A closer look will enable officials to understand the need for the facilities to remain open and for the system to run the way it was designed, Hickey said.
’THEY TREAT YOU LIKE FAMILY’
Hickey said the negative effects of closing a prison go deeper than simply moving the location of a person’s job.