GOWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision announced the Gowanda Correctional Facility is set to close following a review of operations at its 52 correctional facilities.
The Watertown Correctional Facility and Clinton Annex are set for closure in addition to the Gowanda facility.
Officials say the decision to close the locations was made based on a variety of factors including but not limited to:
- Physical infrastructure
- Program offerings
- Facility security level
- Specialized medical and mental health services
- Other facilities in the area to minimize the impact to staff
- Potential reuse options
- Areas of the state where prior closures have occurred in order to minimize the impact to communities
DOCCS spokesperson Thomas Mailey released the following statement on the matter:
Since taking office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has been at the forefront of some of the nation’s most progressive criminal justice reforms by spearheading a series of smart and fair policies that have closed prisons and decreased incarceration rates, brought accountability and transparency to our criminal justice system, protected the rights of victims and upheld due process, all while ensuring New York residents remain safe and secure.
Since Governor Cuomo took office in 2011, the prison population has declined by more than 22,000 - a 39% reduction - from 57,229 to 34,842 people, as of December 21, 2020. In fact, 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.
That’s why DOCCS carefully reviewed the operations at its 52 correctional facilities and identified Watertown and Gowanda Correctional Facilities and the Clinton Annex for closure. While conducting the review, DOCCS based the decision on a variety of factors, including but not limited to physical infrastructure, program offerings, facility security level, specialized medical and mental health services, other facilities in the area to minimize the impact to staff, potential reuse options and areas of the State where prior closures have occurred in order to minimize the impact to communities. With the closure of these two facilities and the Clinton-Annex, we will be able to absorb the incarcerated population into vacant beds available at other institutions. These closures will result in an annual savings of approximately $89 million and a reduction of around 2,750 beds.
DOCCS will work closely with the various bargaining units to provide staff opportunities for priority placement via voluntary transfers and will receive priority in terms of employment at other facilities or other state agencies as a result of the formal Civil Service process that is followed with the closure of a correctional facility. DOCCS does not anticipate any layoffs due to these closures.
DOCCS will also work cooperatively with the Office of General Services and Economic Development to facilitate the re-use of the closed facilities. Upon closure, DOCCS will begin the decommission process in order to protect the State assets for potential re-use.
No date was given as to when the closures officially take place.
Michael B. Powers,President of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, Inc. (NYSCOPBA) released a statement which said in part:
Announcing closures just days before Christmas is not only highly inconsiderate but it also demonstrates a lack of respect for the hardworking men and women of NYSCOPBA and their families. Can Governor Cuomo look our members in the face and say that, despite prison violence at near record levels, closing prisons is what’s best and will produce a safer environment? Even in the face of the pandemic that greatly restricted inmate movement, New York did not see a reduction in prison violence during 2020. And despite limited visitations during the pandemic, illegal contraband remains a significant problem in correctional facilities. Calling for additional closures will only serve to condense the prison population within a decreasing number of facilities, further jeopardizing the safety of NYSCOPBA members and the inmate population as a whole.
This is a developing story, stay tuned to 7 Eyewitness News for updates as they become available.