The escape of two inmates from a New York correctional facility is rekindling a debate over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s funding for state prisons, says the Wall Street Journal. Cuomo, a Democrat in his second term, has overseen a reduction in the state's inmate population, which peaked at 71,000 in 1999 and now is 52,000. He has moved to close more than 10 prisons. His actions have led to tensions with prison-worker unions because closing prisons can mean upheaval for their members. The unions say prisons are becoming more dangerous, even as the inmate population declines, and called for more staff and security. Some union workers have said that because there are fewer drug offenders in prisons, a result of softening drug penalties, there are more violent offenders and more danger for corrections officers. Inmate-advocacy groups have said there is scant evidence suggesting such a link.
Tensions have escalated since the June 6 escape of two murderers from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. A female prison worker has been arrested for allegedly aiding the convicts. “For one woman to be able to get out two convicted murderers I think is unbelievable to all of us,” said Kathy Garrison of the Civil Service Employees Association's Capital Region chapter, which includes some workers at Clinton. “For everyone's safety, we hope that the governor will fund the requested items at all of the state's maximum-security facilities and facilities in general.” Inmate-on-staff assaults in New York prisons have been rising, according to the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, a union for correctional officers, from 577 in 2010 to 747 last year. The unions called on Cuomo this year to hire more officers in response. He agreed to 103 more.