Over the past eight years, $82 million set aside to help New York communities deal with the closings of 17 prisons has gone largely unspent, the USA Today Network reports. A review of public records shows that only $39 million has been disbursed, and of that, about $23 million went to a troubled nanotech-industry development project and not directly to the communities that lost prison jobs.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said prisons shouldn’t be economic drivers, announced the economic program as a way to offer incentives to developers to invest in the shuttered facilities and surrounding communities. As the state’s prison population declined, 11 former prisons and juvenile facilities initially became eligible in 2011 to receive state funding for economic projects that would create at least five new jobs at either the facility or surrounding areas within a five- to 15-mile radius. When the additional $32 million for the program was set aside in 2014, it was extended to include four more correctional facilities shuttered by the state that same year. Allocating state money to help rehab areas where prisons have closed has had some success. In the Bronx, the former Fulton Correctional Facility is being transformed into a social services center that will provide job training for those formerly incarcerated. The center got $6 million to renovate the prison, and the facility is expected to open by 2021. But most communities eligible to receive funding have struggled to find developers willing to invest in sparsely populated portions of the state, making the closure of the correctional facilities especially painful.