Union worries about prison closures as state faces $61B deficit

WWNY Union worries about prison closures as state faces $61B deficit

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - As part of the 2020-2021 state budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo is able to close down any prison he sees fit within 90 days.

It's a budget that needs $61 billion from the federal government to stave off massive cuts to state agencies, the governor said.

7 News asked Cuomo if prison closures are still on the table.

"If we don't get Washington to act intelligently, which wouldn't shock any of us right, we're going to have a serious problem and I can't tell you what actions we would need to take to fill that budget hole because we've never been here before," said Cuomo.

Mike Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, says the union has been worried about prison closures, especially since the start of COVID-19.

"Now is not the time. Simply, now is not the time to do it in light of public safety and this pandemic. Uprooting families at this is time is a very difficult, difficult dilemma for us to have to deal with and it's a difficult dilemma for the department as well to find suitable work places for these individuals and our members," he said.

Powers says the union has expressed concerns to the governor's office.

"You know jobs are hard to come by; they are good living wage jobs they provide benefits. Obviously, in any part of the state a facility closing has a significant impact on a community. There is an impact on the economies in those areas and our economies are struggling right now and if people don't have good wages and can't afford to maintain, you're not going to see that dollar go back into the mainstream," said Powers.

The union is also pushing for the state to eliminate having prisoners in double bunks to help continue with social distancing, fill up beds, and possibly avoid closures.

The union is hoping the state will be able to get federal aid, too.

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