Last month, Gov. Kathy Hochul raised the possibility of closing more state prison facilities in New York, continuing a decade-long effort by her predecessor amid a decline in the overall population of incarcerated people, reported Spectrum News.
But unlike former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who did not
want prisons to be a jobs plan for upstate communities, Hochul acknowledged the
fallout from the loss of prisons on an area's economy.
Many of the former prisons closed by the Cuomo
administration remain vacant sites, with few interested buyers willing to
purchase the land and develop it for something else.
So Hochul is considering ways of converting the
sites to be used for other uses, such as providing help for people who face
addiction. Hochul didn't offer many details as the plan remains under
"We want to get creative with this. I don't
know if some of these can be used as substance abuse treatment centers,
residential facilities," she said. "These are buildings I'm looking
at the cost and also the opportunity of converting them to a different
Hochul pointed to the falling population of the
state prison system overall, and many facilities are currently half full.
Closing prisons has been largely applauded by
criminal justice reform advocates as a needed corrective, though opposed by the
labor union that represents corrections officers.
"Incarceration is where we are at this
point," said Neil Berry, an activist with the group VOCAL New York who was
once incarcerated himself. "It's proven this type of system is not working
and we have to do a more holistic aproach."
But Berry is concerned with using former prisons to
provide treatment to people. Instead, Berry says those services should come to
where people live.
"It's traumatizing for a person because the
person has been in the prison system before," he said. "As a person
who has been directly impacted, I can tell you that's no the place to be when
you're seeking treatment."
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