Rally to save state prisons from closure

Oneida Correctional Facility / file photo

A large rally took place Tuesday afternoon in front of the State Office Building in Utica in an attempt to save two local prisons from closing.

The rally attracted a number of state and local officials, legislators, and state employees who oppose Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plans to shut down Camp Georgetown in southern Madison County and the Oneida Correctional Facility outside the City of Rome..

Late last month, the Governor announced the two facilities were among seven state prisons slated to close to save taxpayers $184 million over the next two years..

Camp Georgetown currently has a total inmate capacity of 258, but currently only houses 100. Nevertheless, 85 people are employed there at an annual cost to the taxpayers of $6.5 million.

Oneida Correctional, outside Rome, has a capacity of 1,194 inmates but currently houses 939. The state employs some 500 there with an annual operation budget of $47.9 million.

Union leaders who represent corrections officers claim the closure of any prison in New York would threaten the safety of the state prison system. CSEA Local 186 President Mike Rockenstyre told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon that Oneida Correctional is among the most efficiently run prisons in New York, so it makes no sense to him for Governor Cuomo to close it.

Prison employee Margaret Sherman worries that she could not pay her bills when she's laid off. She says her husband suffers from throat cancer.

Dough Adams, who has worked at the prison in Oneida for 24 years, says the City of Rome will be especially hard hit because the facility provides "good paying" jobs to hundreds of employees who spend their money in local businesses

Inmates in the seven prisons slated for closure would be moved to other facilities that have available space, a process which has reportedly already begun at Camp Georgetown.

The Governor's office has not yet responded to our request for comment. In the past Cuomo has pointed to the fact that there are 3800 unused beds in the State prison system.