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Ogdensburg prison set to be closed in March

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 12:07 PM EST
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OGDENBURG, New York (WWNY) - Ogdensburg Correctional Facility is on the chopping block.

The state Department of Correction and Community Supervision (DOCCS) made that announcement Monday.

There are 268 people employed at Ogdensburg. DOCCS officials say they don’t expect any layoffs and will give staff opportunities to transfer to other facilities.

The prison is one of six scheduled to be closed on March 10.

The others are Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility, Willard Drug Treatment Campus, Southport Correctional Facility, Downstate Correctional Facility, and Rochester Correctional Facility.

When asked last month if prison closings were still on the table, Gov. Kathy Hochul said “that’s something that is absolutely on the table and we are looking at right now.”

Data reviewed by 7 News showed that the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility is at 36 percent capacity, the lowest of the north country’s four remaining prisons.

This would be the second north country prison to be closed within a year. The Watertown Correctional Facility was closed last March. A number of corrections officers there transferred to Ogdensburg.

“We are dealing with these individuals that, two years in a row, are going to have to deal with prison closures and so, uproot their families again,” said Mike Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, or NYSCOPBA.

The state cites a declining prison population for the closings. DOCCS officials say the incarcerated population in state facilities is 31,469, a reduction of more than 12,700 inmates since January 1, 2020.

The Ogdensburg facility, a medium-security prison, has 158 people incarcerated out of a capacity of 557.

The closings, officials say, will save the state $142 million. Inmates in the prisons that are scheduled to be closed will be distributed among other facilities.

Powers issued the following statement:

“If people have been paying attention to the past decade of poor decisions made by our elected leaders in Albany, today’s news shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. The State’s progressive polices are costly and need to be funded somehow. Sadly it’s at the expense of the hard working men and women of NYSCOPBA. The numbers tell the real story; despite closing over two dozen facilities the past 10 years, violent attacks on our members have doubled and yet nothing is being done to address it. Where is the reinvestment in the facilities to make these prisons safer working environments? My heart goes out to all of the individuals whose lives have been severely impacted by this announcement and know that our organization will hold the department accountable every step of the way. At some point, the State needs to realize that these choices are more than just buildings and tax-saving measures, these are life-altering decisions that upend lives and destroy communities.”

Ogdensburg Mayor Mike Skelly is calling for more transparency in the decision-making process:

“The City of Ogdensburg is disappointed in Governor Hochul’s decision to close the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility. In her initial remarks upon being sworn-in after the resignation of Governor Cuomo, Governor Hochul promised to do business differently and increase transparency. The process for determining the priority order for closing prisons is not transparent, under either Governor, and the timing of these decisions remains in question as yet another dedicated group of Corrections Officers and Support Staff face the loss of jobs or reassignment out of the area as the holiday season approaches. As Mayor of Ogdensburg, I call on Governor Hochul to place this decision on hold, provide the decision matrix being used and meet with local officials to discuss the impacts to our local families and economy.”

Two of the prisons -- Ogdensburg and Moriah Shock Incarceration -- are in Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s district. She blasted the decision in a statement:

“New York Democrats, led by Kathy Hochul, have continued to undermine our law enforcement and make our communities less safe. Our brave Correctional Officers still put their lives on the line daily, even as crime across New York and violence in prisons have skyrocketed under failed Far-Left Democrat leadership. Now, Governor Hochul continues to undermine the rule of law by closing North Country prisons, which will devastate our region. Targeting multiple North Country prisons is an attack on the hardworking residents of the North Country. Nearly 300 Correctional officers and their families will be displaced. This decision is just one more example of Governor Hochul lurching to the left and completely punishing upstate New York. Governor Hochul must reverse course. New Yorkers deserve better.”

Assemblyman Mark Walczyk (R. - 116th District) issued this statement:

“This hip-fire closure plan reminds me of the Cuomo administration. Leaders plan. During the budget hearings earlier this year, I made it clear to the Commissioner of DOCCS that you don’t announce the closure of a State prison and then figure out what to do with the building later. Closing a prison with no plan is lazy, it’s not fair for the hardworking staff, and devastating to a host community like Ogdensburg. It’s also pretty terrible for the taxpayer, too. The move to close the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility proves to me the Commissioner and the Governor didn’t listen. The St. Lawrence County economy relies on the more than 250 jobs associated with this facility. State leaders in Albany didn’t plan accordingly and instead, they have torpedoed the upstate economy. I’m calling on Governor Hochul to exercise some transparency, listen to reason, and develop a closure plan that’s logistically sound and fair to all concerned. I stand side-by-side with our region’s brave COs and staff. Additionally, everything she’s done so far has shown Governor Hochul cares more about the comfortable lifestyle of convicted, violent felons than she does about Corrections Officers, Law Enforcement, taxpayers, or safety on our streets.”

State Senator Patty Ritchie (R. - 48th District) sent this statement:

“In announcing that Ogdensburg Correctional Facility is slated to close, Governor Hochul has delivered yet another devastating blow to the North Country. When the Governor took office, I was optimistic. Surely, as a fellow Upstate New Yorker, she would have a better understanding of the very serious challenges we face. Today’s news confirms she could not care less about causing further damage to an already economically fragile part of our state. Instead of taking a hard look at how yet another prison closure and the loss of hundreds of jobs will affect our region, she has fallen lockstep with the downstate Democrats and their agenda that puts criminals before the rights and safety of law abiding New Yorkers. People in the North Country did not ask for things like bail reform and other changes that have caused prison populations to decrease and crime rates to skyrocket. Yet once again, Albany is taking it out on us. It seems like just yesterday that the previous administration announced Watertown Correctional Facility would be closing. Today, it still sits empty, with no concrete plans for its repurposing. I ask the Governor—what is the plan for Watertown Correctional Facility? What will the plan be for Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, which as many know, is in the midst of a major, nearly $10 million capital project slated to be completed in January? To many, it would only seem logical to have a plan for these facilities before they close, so they do not end up as vacant, eyesores in the communities where they exist. As I have come to find though, most decisions made by Albany bureaucrats are far from logical. To say I am deeply disappointed and angered by today’s announcement would be an understatement. In the days to come, I am fully committed to fighting alongside the prison’s hundreds of hardworking employees and the community to show Governor Hochul that this is a misguided decision, which will have a devastating impact on hundreds of local families and the North Country as a whole.”

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