'Utter waste of our money': Local officials infuriated over prison closure

May 23, 2019 11:23 PM

LIVINGSTON COUNTY, N.Y (WHEC) -- Elected officials in Livingston County say it's not justified. They are referring to a plan by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to close the Livingston Correctional Facility in Sonyea in about 90 days.

State Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes vowed to fight this plan.


"I think the citizens of our entire state should be outraged at this utter waste of our money," said Rep. Majorie Byrnes.

She says the state just spent $8.4 million to completely redo the water system in the prison that now uses well water and in Groveland Correctional Facility.

She says it will have to spend another $300,000 to create a treatment facility before the water system is operational. Now, add that to the $5.5 million Byrnes says the state is already spending to replace the roof. 

"Literally, as we're standing here, they're putting on a new roof and that work is going to continue long after the prison is closed," she said.

Byrnes says that doesn't include another couple of million dollars for add-ons like exterior lighting.

On top of this closure, the state plans to close another prison in New York City, eliminating 1,200 vacant beds in total.

DOCCS released the following statement Thursday: 

"The selection of correctional facilities, including Livingston, for closure is always based on a thorough review of the operations at the 54 correctional facilities to determine which ones were underutilized and save tax payer dollars. Statewide, the current incarcerated population is at its lowest level in thirty years and leads the nation with the lowest imprisonment rate of any large state. From its peak of 72,773 twenty years ago, the population has decreased by nearly 26,000 people - a 35.7% reduction. There will be no layoffs and the Department will provide a variety of options for staff to transition to other facilities or state agencies and continue their employment with the State. DOCCS will, as is has done in the past, continue to engage with and provide support to communities impacted by this closure."

Byrnes and union reps say the prison may have vacancy because of the state's practice of double bunking, which is putting two inmates in a space that's only big enough for one.

"This facility is in good condition. I saw it myself a month ago. The facility is also almost at full capacity and they're double bunking which is something they use with overcrowding," said Byrnes. 

Mike Powers says it's dangerous and should be eliminated. Powers is the president of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association.

"Many of us have pulled into parking lots in shopping centers around us. That's the size of a cube with two individuals sitting in it," Powers said. 


Lynette Adams

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