February 4, 2010 Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell (D-Theresa) sent a letter to the governor explaining why his initiative to close the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility is wrong. Assemblywoman Russell sites false capital project claims, overpopulation of the prison system, ripple effects on the local economy, and the continued success of the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility as reasons for the facility to be removed from the closure list.
“In the early 1980’s when the state needed to add capacity to the corrections system Ogdensburg welcomed the facility,” Assemblywoman Russell said. “Other areas of the state fought the location of a prison in their community. A few years later Ogdensburg welcomed a second facility, Riverview Correctional Facility. The location of the two facilities in Ogdensburg and the three others within the hub has resulted in hundreds of North Country residents becoming state correction officers. If Ogdensburg Correctional Facility is closed, the Department of Correctional Services employees will be forced to uproot their families or abandon their efforts to transfer back to the North Country permanently. Our community, which has always been a good partner with the state, will be devastated.” Russell cited numerous reasons why closing the facility is a bad decision for the state, and for the future of the area. Her arguments included:
Prison is needed to house the number of inmates in the state: According to the Department of Corrections Inmate Population Breakdown Report there are currently 4,000 double-bunked beds. Even further, maximum security prisons are currently at 121.7% capacity and medium security at 94.5% capacity including double-bunking.
Success of the Ogdensburg facility: At the Ogdensburg facility there are rare inmate on inmate incidents as well as inmate on staff incidents. The facility runs smoothly and repeatedly scores high on their regular inspections.
Lower operating costs than other facilities: Ogdensburg Correctional receives FREE steam heat based on a 25 year contract that the state’s Office of Mental Health has with a private facility located on the psychiatric center’s grounds. They are currently working with OMH to make changes to their contract so that they can expand their operation to generate 26 MW of power from biomass, creating approximately 50 permanent new green jobs.
Cut costs elsewhere: Reducing the administrative staff at the Department of Corrections in Albany could save $15 million, not replacing the hot water boiler house in the facility because there is no need could save $9.4 million.
Grassroots efforts are currently taking place in Ogdensburg and surrounding communities to keep the prison open. Assemblywoman Russell has requested a meeting with the governor to explain why closing the facility would do more harm than good for the state.
“I want to thank all those who are rallying with me, have signed petitions, and written letters. I am taking our message to the governor loud and clear: the time of balancing the budget on the backs of the hard working families in the North Country must stop,” Russell said.