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N.Y. budget allows governor to close up to 5 state prisons

An N.Y. DOCCS official told lawmakers that a “staffing crisis” was the main reason for the plan to close more prisons, stating there were 1,900 vacant CO positions

By Robert Harding
The Citizen, Auburn, N.Y.

NEW YORK — The 2024-25 state budget agreement allows Gov. Kathy Hochul to expedite the closure of up to five prisons, but it’s still not known which correctional facilities will close in the new fiscal year.

The public protection and general government budget bill authorizes Hochul to close the prisons with 90 days’ notice to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

According to the legislation, the notice should include the list of correctional facilities that will close, the number of incarcerated individuals in each prison and the number of affected employees.

Daniel Martuscello, acting commissioner of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, will be required to report to legislative leaders on staff relocation within 60 days after the prison closures.

Hochul sought the authority to close more prisons in her state budget proposal. Under state law, prison closures require a one-year notice, but she wanted to expedite that process.

In his budget testimony, Martuscello told lawmakers that a “staffing crisis” was the main reason for the plan to close more prisons. At the time, he said DOCCS had 3,800 vacant positions, including 1,900 corrections officers.

The declining incarcerated population is also a factor, as it has been with past closures. DOCCS reports that the number of incarcerated individuals has decreased by 54.7%, from 72,649 at the population’s peak in 1999 to 32,918 on April 1.

New York has closed 24 prisons and eliminated more than 13,000 beds since 2011.

“We are in a good position with excess capacity,” Martuscello said in January. “We have 6,000 staffed vacant beds and an additional 6,000 beds which we’ve consolidated to try to alleviate staffing concerns. We can’t consolidate any more, so closures is a way forward so we can make sure we use our staff more efficiently as well as provide the services to the population.”

The plan to close more prisons has been criticized by some lawmakers and the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, a union representing corrections officers.

It’s unknown which prisons will be in the latest round of closures. There are 44 prisons, including two in Cayuga County: Auburn Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in the city of Auburn, and Cayuga Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in Moravia.

State legislators are beginning to vote on the budget bills after Hochul and legislative leaders settled most budget issues. The state Assembly and Senate passed the public protection and general government budget bill on Thursday.


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