As the number of people incarcerated in New York continues to decline, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed closing two women's prisons to save money.
Beacon in Duchess County and Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan have been called the least cost efficient prisons in the system by state officials. According to the Governor’s budget office, the total staff cost per inmate at Bayview is $74,385, that is compared to $34,193 per inmate in other facilities.
Donn Rowe, president of the State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, said offering a mere sixty day warning to workers before transferring them, as proposed, isn't enough time to prepare.
"You don't want someone working in a stressful job like a correctional facility with these type of burdens on the backs”, said Rowe.
He added that the burden of uprooting officers is compounded because the proposed closures in the governor's executive budget come on the heels of seven other facilities being shuttered since Cuomo took office.
“New York taxpayers cannot simply afford for the state to treat our prison system like a jobs program when we have one of the lowest crime rates in the nation,” said Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor.
The state’s prison population has dropped to fewer than 55,000 after peaking at 72,600 in 1999.
The Correctional Association’s Tamar Kraft-Stolar applauds shutting more prisons but thinks putting these downstate facilities on the chopping block will create a hardship for families of inmates — since nearly half are from the five boroughs. In addition, she said closing these facilities will also make it more difficult for inmates to participate in dwindling work release programs.
"Getting rid of some of the most important opportunities women have to stay connected with their children and to prepare for their release is misguided,” Kraft-Skolar said.
The closures, if approved, are estimated to save about $18 million in the next budget year. Bayview on Manhattan’s west side has remained vacant since inmates were evacuated during Sandy. Administration officials expect the facility to bring millions more dollars to state coffers if it’s sold.