Pushing back over prison closures

WWNY Pushing back over prison closures

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - At a news conference in front of the doomed Watertown Correctional Facility, the message of “don’t close our prison” was shouted.

“It’s real for our whole family,” said Janette St. Louis.

She stood in front of the Watertown Correctional Facility with her husband, retired corrections officer Duane St. Louis. Duane spent nearly 30 years working in the prison and now his nephew, his daughter, and his son-in-law work there.

“To see this facility close is just a shame,” said Duane.

Four days before Christmas, the state announced Watertown Correctional would be shut down at the end of March, meaning hundreds of workers will need to relocate.

“It’s unacceptable and they need to rescind their decision immediately,” said Bryan Hluska, central region vice president, New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.

It was a news conference where union workers, their families, and lawmakers blasted the state’s decision.

“You had the entire year, from the time that that budget passed on April 1, to tell these families that they were going to have to relocate and you waited until four days before Christmas! Shame on you,” said Assemblyman Mark Walczyk (R. - 116th District).

“Governor, I’m asking you, you’re the one who can make this decision to do the right thing and to keep the Watertown Correctional Facility open and show the respect that is deserved to the people standing behind me,” said Senator Patty Ritchie (R. - 48th District).

The people like Duane and his family.

“Our family, our livelihood, their livelihood. Please don’t close Watertown,” said Janette.

The Department of Corrections says the closure is based on a number of factors and closing Watertown and two other facilities at the end of March will save the state nearly $90 million.

It also comes as prisoner populations decline. The state says Watertown’s inmate population is 47 percent of its capacity.

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