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Prison employees, lawmakers resist closure
Despite the perception that "it doesn't look good," according to one union president, prison employees and lawmaker met at the entrance to the Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility Wednesday morning to talk about finding a way to save jobs at a prison that is scheduled to close next July.
"This is a budget situation," said Senator Hugh Farley, "and I chair a major budget committee in the senate and we are going to see what we can do to prevent this closing."
Farley said he does not believe the state will actually save the projected $30,000,000 by closing McGregor and three other prisons. He said he thinks the cost of the closure and the costs incurred from keeping remaining prisons safe will wipe out the savings. Farley and other lawmakers say they have a bill that would require input from legislators before any prison is closed.
Among those affected is the prison's dental assistant, Scott Dussault, who is also president of the CSEA local 68. He says he's been told he can keep his job if he transfers to another prison far from Wilton. He says that would require selling his house and buying a new one.
"I have a family based here," says Dussault, "my wife also works for the state, I have two children in the school system here. It just wouldn't make sense." Dussault says there were 455 inmates at the prison on July 26, compared to what he says is now 319.
Donn Rowe, president of the New York Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association accuses the Cuomo administration of playing with numbers to make it appear the prison population is lower than it is. "This prison could be at full capacity," says Rowe. He said he hoped for a meeting with Governor Andrew Cuomo to try to persuade him to save the prison and save 320 jobs.
A spokesman for the Department of Corrections issued a statement reading, in part, "The organizers of today's event eeither have no knowledge of current law, or are intentionally ignoring key facts in order to score cheap political points."
The statement goes on to say the department is using the prison-closing procedure that was approved by legislators in 2005 and that the "right-sizing" of the state's prison system reflects a shrinking prison population.