Monday, May 17, 2010

Organization calls for more state prisons to close

An advocacy group that played a key role in repealing the Rockefeller drug laws staged rallies over the weekend calling for more state prison closures throughout New York.

Robert Gangi is executive director of the New York Correctional Association and lead organizer for “Drop the Rock.” He says declining crime rates and smaller inmate populations mean more correctional facilities should be shut down.

Gangi says his group is looking to Governor David Paterson and the legislature to exercise leadership by saving taxpayer dollars and closing prisons that aren’t running at full capacity.

“Our question to state policymakers is simple,” Gangi said. “At a time when city government is planning to lay off over 6,000 teachers to cut costs, how can you overlook the hundreds of millions of dollars in savings achievable by closing empty prisons?”

Caitlin Dunklee is campaign coordinator for Drop the Rock. She notes the crime rate in New York has dropped off dramatically over the last decade – and the prison population has declined by some 14,000 people.

Drop the Rock Associate Denise Thomas says there’s more than 5,000 empty prison beds across the state.

“New Yorkers need to know that the Governor’s proposal to close prisons does not go nearly far enough,” he said.

“We want to know why the Governor is willing to take extreme measures like cutting funds for proven alternatives to incarceration programs and enforcing furloughs on government employees to tighten the state budget deficit but is unwilling to close underutilized prisons,” Thomas added.

Rallies were held throughout the state over the weekend, but notably absent in the North Country where the Lyon Mountain and Moriah Shock correctional facilities are facing closure.

Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward and Janet Duprey, as well as state Senator Betty Little, are opposed to closing the prisons because of the potential economic impact on area economies.

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