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Gowanda Correctional Facility closes its doors

Community concerns loom about economic impact.
Posted at 6:53 PM, Mar 31, 2021

GOWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Gowanda Correctional Facility has closed its doors.

Tuesday was its last day operating, after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in December the facility would be shutting down.

The closure takes more than 600 jobs from the Gowanda area, and shifts positions to other correctional facilities across the state. The Governor's Office cited financial reasons and declining prison population for the closure.

The DOCCS says since 2011, the prison population in the state of New York has declined by 45%. There are now 31,419 people in the system state-wide.

Members of the community worry this may have a long-lasting financial impact on the small village.

"I love Gowanda. I love our town, but it's sad when you may have to close your doors and move to another state," said Wanda Koch, who owns the Wicked Glen bar and grill in the village.

Koch says after a year of COVID-19 shutdowns, this is a serious blow to her business. She says Tuesday, on the employees last day, 90% of her business was from Gowanda Correctional Facility workers. Moving to another state, she says is not out of the question.

"My business is going to be effected greatly because people patronize our place," she said. "They come down, order lunch, have union meetings. It's sad."

DOCCS says: "The current DOCCS population is at its lowest level in more than 30 years, with New York leading the nation with the lowest imprisonment rate of any large state.”

Members of the community and village say they have yet to see any concrete evidence that backs up the closure.

"We filed several freedom of information requests and those didn’t yield any information that tell us this was a cost saving maneuver," said Michael Hutchinson who serves as the Vice President for the Gowanda Redevelopment Corporation.

Hutchinson says this will have a $54 million impact on the local economy, as those 600 jobs are shifted elsewhere in the stae.

The big question for many is what happens to the building?

We took that question to the Governor's Office. A spokesperson from DOCCS says: “The Department will work with the Office of General Services and the Empire State Development Corporation in an effort to identify a re-use for the facility.”

We learned everything inside the Gowanda Correctional Facility will be shipped to other state-run prisons, then, pipes will be drained and the building boarded up to protect the state's assets.