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Inmates write letters to prevent closure of Ogdensburg Correctional Facility

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 4:30 PM EST
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - Inmates at Ogdensburg Correctional Facility are joining staff and community members in the fight to keep the prison open.

Letter after letter. Senator Patty Ritchie’s office has been getting mail from an unexpected group - inmates.

They want her help to reverse the state’s decision to close the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility.

“Not only are we hearing from staff, corrections officers and their families, we’re also hearing from those who are incarcerated, saying please don’t move me from this facility, I feel safe here, I’m learning a trade here, and this is where I want to stay,” said Ritchie (R. - 48th District).

The inmates say OCF is unlike any other state prison. One inmate writes, “Yes the prison is small and has a low population, but that works out better for the inmates and staff here. They care about inmates and they don’t treat you like a (sic) inmate.”

Another says, “This is the only place I have ever witnessed gang rivals get along with each other well enough to not jeopardize everyone else’s safety.”

An older inmate wrote, “I feel safe at my age, or any age, and that’s important.” And, “From Day 1, I was treated with respect.”

Some letters mention the inmate-run garden which provides food for the community.

“I’ve worked and volunteered in several projects and learned several skills such as gardening, maintenance, landscaping, etc.,” read one letter.

“They are learning a trade. They feel that they have been treated fairly by staff there, and the main issue over and over again is that they feel safe. I truly believe these are very powerful letters. The people who are making the decisions on prison closures should take the time to read these letters,” said Ritchie.

Ogdensburg legislator and prison advisory board member James Reagen has been to the prison and heard the same positive feedback.

“Ogdensburg Correctional enjoys a reputation around the state as a very safe place where you have a much lower incident rate of assaults, of injuries. This is a place where they can do their time and enjoy a degree of safety that they don’t often see, especially downstate,” he said.

These letters plea for lawmakers to let them stay:

“It would be unjust to close a place like this while it’s ran (sic) so professionally.”

“There is very little nonsense here that goes on in other facilities, which I no doubt will wind up in now.”

“This is a very good place and to close it down would be a real waste, we all feel that way.”

“The officers here have helped me grow and learn from my mistakes. I respect them and feel it would be a great loss to the community, the staff as well as the inmates if this facility was to close.”

“Please help us convince Governor Hochul to change her mind.”

Unless the decision is reversed, the prison will be closed March 10. But staff, inmates and community members alike say they’ll keep fighting.

“Anyone who thinks that Ogdensburg Correctional is going to be closed quietly doesn’t know Ogdensburg,” said Reagen.

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