New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer plans to close a medium-security prison and three minimum-security camps upstate, citing the state’s declining crime and prison population, reports the New York Times. Officials said the move would save taxpayers upward of $70 million in the next few years. The closing of the four prisons will be felt in the counties where the prisons have provided steady, well-paying jobs. Republican legislators and the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association were critical of the plan.
The state corrections department said the proposed closings were not expected to cause significant layoffs because many employees could be absorbed into other prison department jobs. The officials said all four complexes were operating at about half capacity with a total of 939 inmates and 584 full- and part-time employees. The closings are expected to save taxpayers $10.4 million in operating costs in the fiscal year 2008-9, $33.5 million annually in operating costs beginning in 2009-10 and $30 million in capital expenditures. Officials said the closings would allow the corrections department to improve programs for sex offenders, mental health treatment and community re-entry. New laws have enabled the state to move more nonviolent offenders out of correctional facilities and into communities. The state's 69 facilities held 62,243 inmates as of Friday, down from a peak of 71,538 in 1999.