Cells On the Market: Will Anyone Buy Vacant New York State Prisons?


The ideal buyer for some state of New York properties is someone who craves space to spread out, and who does not mind a property that has had thousands of guests over the years. A fondness for “The Shawshank Redemption” would not hurt, says the New York Times. The state has a glut of vacant correctional facilities because of lower crime rates, new programs that allow early release for nonviolent offenders and the dismantling of its strict drug laws.

Former Gov. David Paterson closed three prisons as he confronted budget problems. Gov. Andrew Cuomo shut seven of the state's remaining 67 correctional facilities, removing 3,800 beds. These closings reflect a sharp reversal. After New York adopted mandatory drug sentences in 1973, the state's prison population soared from 13,437 to a peak of 71,472 in 1999. Since then, the number has fallen nearly a quarter, to about 55,000, leaving thousands of empty beds. All three prisons closed by Paterson are vacant.

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