ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York's governor is recommending a proposal that would give him the ability to close state prisons on a faster timeline.
The measure is included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal, which was rolled out Tuesday. The proposal would allow the governor to close state prisons if he gives at least a 90-day notice to legislative leaders. Additionally, Cuomo is looking to close several prisons.
The significant decline in crime coincides with a 38 percent drop in the State’s prison population from a peak of 72,600 in 1999 to a current population of approximately 44,500 – the lowest level in more than two decades. Through this decline, excess capacity has begun to build and as a result the Governor has recommended the closure of several facilities to effectively right-size the prison system.
The corrections officers union said the move puts them at risk.
"It'll immediately make prisons less safe," said NYSCOBA Western Region Business Agent Kenny Gold.
He said if a prison closes, inmates will be moved elsewhere, which may lead to double-bunking. He said the practice puts both staff and inmates in danger because there's more inmates for staff to monitor, and the inmates are living within a few feet from each other.
The state prison population is at the lowest level in more than two decades, according to New York State; however, Gold said corrections officers feel the pressure more than ever and closing prisons won't help. According to the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the number of assaults on both staff and inmates is about 40% higher than five years ago.
Gold said the new proposal giving staff 90 days notice that their prison is closing, instead of a year, is blindsiding.
"It changes their whole livelihood, it uproots them and puts them in a different prison they don't know," Gold said.
He said it also has a ripple effect on the economy of a community. Livingston Correctional Facility closed in September, it had over 300 employees in a town of approximately 3,200 people.
There's no word yet on what prisons Cuomo is looking to close, or how many. If approved, the measure would be effective from April 2020 through March 2021.