By LOHR McKINSTRY
PORT HENRY — A support rally for the Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility drew hundreds of people and dozens of pledges to fight to keep the local shock camp open.
Speaker after speaker Thursday night pledged to fight Gov. David Paterson's plan to shutter Moriah Shock in 2011.
The rally at the Knights of Columbus hall in Port Henry drew more than 200 people, many wearing yellow "Help Save Shock - We All Benefit" T-shirts.
There was thunderous applause and even standing ovations as local and state elected representatives joined workers at Moriah Shock to voice their displeasure with the governor's plan.
Moriah Town Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said he and Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) had a personal meeting with Paterson when the governor was in Crown Point on Wednesday. Paterson came up to announce the new Crown Point Ferry will open late Sunday and be available for commuters Monday morning.
"I feel we can stop the closure of Moriah Shock," Scozzafava said. "Are we angry? You can bet we're angry. But we can fight this with facts."
He said statistics compiled by the state show millions of dollars in savings on housing because shock inmates get out earlier and are less likely to re-offend than regular prisoners.
Douglas said he was joining the fight to keep Moriah Shock open.
"The governor's decision to close Moriah Shock must be overturned. He (Paterson) assured us he will take another look at his decision."
Dale Johnson is a cook at Moriah Shock and president of the Civil Service Employees Association local chapter there.
"How much more can we take here?" he said. "The way to save Moriah Shock is for the people in this room to come together. This is not going to be an easy battle."
State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) said northern New York already has too many empty buildings as the result of business and industrial closures.
"We cannot afford to have additional empty facilities. Your presence here (at the rally) is a testament to how important this facility is for all the people of Essex County."
James Bullard is a volunteer English teacher at Moriah Shock.
"Some of those (inmates) we see have been dreadfully shortchanged by the educational system in New York City. Many of them say they're afraid to go home, they don't know what will happen to them."
Duane Stevens, a correction officer at Moriah Shock, said the camp's community work crews go all over the North Country helping communities.
"This is very important to our communities, who couldn't afford to pay for the work those crews do."
Katrinka Trombley, a nurse at the shock facility, said that when the 1998 Ice Storm crippled the North Country, Moriah Shock work crews went out to help.
"They helped cut down trees; they were in Jay filling sandbags. We think we do a very good job at Moriah Shock. We have a very high success rate."
Moriah Shock employee Cheryl LaDuc said workers were called together Monday to be given the bad news.
"We were stunned when we heard this. Many of us called our loved ones to tell them."
She said that the next day people came in and told her about the sadness and turmoil when they got home and told their families.
She said she told herself: "Oh, no, this is not going to happen. We will not let it happen."
E-mail Lohr McKinstry at: firstname.lastname@example.org