February 18, 2014

In My Opinion: Prison closures will increase danger

In January, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision released its annual report on the state of New York’s prisons.

This report made one thing very clear: Violence in our prisons is out of control.

Assaults by inmates on staff are on the rise. Assaults by inmates on other inmates are on the rise. And assaults were more likely than in past years to result in injuries.

Our prisons, never a safe place to begin with, are now more dangerous than ever.

The report gave one reason our prison system is more dangerous: It holds more inmates who have a history of violence. Consider that, since 2004, the percentage of male inmates in maximum-security facilities with violent felony convictions has risen 6 points — from 75.4 percent to 81.4 percent.

In other words, more than four out of five inmates serving time at maximum-security prisons have been convicted of a violent crime such as murder, rape or kidnapping. Many have been convicted of multiple violent crimes.

The report mentioned the increasing proportion of violent felons, but it didn’t address the second reason for the rising tide of violence: overcrowding. The lack of space in our prisons means that more than 10,000 inmates are currently forced to double bunk.

You’d think that the Cuomo administration would be working with the correction officers to make our prisons safer and counteract the trend. You’d be wrong.

Instead the administration wants to make things even worse by closing several upstate prisons.

Chateauguay Correctional Facility, in Franklin County is on the chopping block for 2014. When it closes, the local economy will lose 111 good-paying jobs, and 234 prisoners will be transferred to other correctional facilities, making those prisons overcrowded and even more dangerous.

In an attempt to justify the administration’s agenda and give a falsely rosy picture, DOCCS has started to downplay the severity of injuries suffered by prison guards. According to the DOCCS official report, correctional officers didn’t suffer a single “serious” injury last year. Zero.

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