PLATTSBURGH — North Country prisons have been spared from the chopping block as the state will close two units elsewhere.
According to State Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay), Livingston Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in western New York, and Lincoln Correctional Facility, a minimum security site in New York City, will be closed as part of a state cost-savings measure.
"We are happy that the commissioner and the executives at the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision saw the value of all the correctional facilities in our district," Jones said.
"This will certainly be a relief to the many people who work at prisons in the district."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has aimed to close up to three of the state's 54 prisons as part of the 2019 budget.
The cuts were made based on recommendations from DOCCS.
Area officials were concerned that one or more of the six operating prisons in Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties could have been chosen for closure.
THREE RECENT CLOSURES
In recent months, Jones spoke often about the importance of prisons to the North Country economy, and how the area has already been hit with numerous prison closures in recent years.
"This certainly is great news for not only the people who work in the prisons, but the families and businesses that rely on them," he said.
"We were fairly confident that we would be safe, and now it is confirmed, and it's great news."
The North Country lost Camp Gabriels in Brighton in Franklin County in 2009, Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility in Clinton County in 2011, and Chateaugay Correctional Facility, also in Franklin County, in 2014.
State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) said she was glad to hear no North Country prisons would be closed this time.
"We are still having trouble finding uses for the prisons in our area that were closed," she said.
"These prisons are economically important and they create activity in a community, and without them many communities go quiet."
'CONE OF SILENCE'
The six prisons still open in Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties include: Adirondack Adolescent Offender Facility in Ray Brook, a medium security site; Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum security facility in Dannemora, which includes Clinton Annex; Franklin and Bare Hill Correctional Facilities, both medium security sites in Malone; Moriah Shock Incarceration Facility in Mineville, a medium security facility and Upstate Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Malone.
Clinton County Legislature Chairman Harry McManus (D-Area 1, Champlain) said he was worried.
"There's been like a cone of silence," McManus said.
"But we felt that we had the numbers to justify keeping the prisons, but numbers don't always justify anything. If they did, then we would still have Plattsburgh Air Force Base."
Legislature Deputy Chairman Robert Hall (D-Area 10, City of Plattsburgh) said the news was a relief.
"A lot of people were worried about their jobs or having to transfer somewhere," Hall said.
"This is great for them."
Hall said prison communities are usually small and would have trouble dealing with a closure.
"These towns that have prisons don't have a lot, and they need them bad," he said.
Maggy's Marketplace, a pharmacy and retail store, has been operating across the street from Clinton Correctional Facility's concrete walls in Dannemora since the mid-1970s.
"We, as a business, wouldn't be in business if it wasn't for everyone who works across the street," Mark Maggy, said.
"This prison is so important to this community. It's the reason why we are such a close-knit community. We are very fortunate."
Clinton Correctional Facility and Dannemora, were in the national spotlight four years ago when murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped and were on the run for three weeks.
Showtime, with Ben Stiller as director, produced a seven-part television series on the escape that aired late last year.
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the North Country has already suffered enough when it comes to prison closures.
"This is welcome news for our area," Douglas said.
"The North Country Chamber has been very much behind Assemblyman Jones and Senator Little in making the case that Clinton and Franklin counties have already taken hits with the closures of Lyon Mountain, Camp Gabriels and Chateaugay while other areas were left alone.
Any closures or downsizing should focus elsewhere this round, and it appears that will be the case. We thank our state legislators for their effective efforts and we thank Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo for listening."
Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman said also praised Jones, who is a former correction officer, for his support of area prisons.
"If (local closures) occurred it would have been devastating economically, and an added burden to our rural communities as they sit there to decay," Cashman said.
"Assemblyman Jones has been working diligently to advocate for us here in the North County on this issue. He is to be applauded."
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