Thursday, March 17, 2011

Prison Closing Debate Breaks Out in Budget Committee

On Wednesday the Conference Subcommittee on Public Protection met to hash out two major issues under their purview, which included the Prison Closure Task Force. The result was in sharp contrast to most of the meetings on Wednesday, which could be characterized as boring and zzzzz....
Debate over the issue volleyed back and forth between Republican Senator Michael Nozzolio stressing the need to focus on the economic needs of areas losing prisons and Democratic Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry expressing concerns about the functioning of the prison system.
"The system's ability to do services should be first priority," argued Aubry, who acknowledged the need to consider the economic impact of closing a prison. This was in sharp contrast to Nozzolio's focus, which was on the need for a direct assessment of unemployment for impacted areas.
Aubry went on to say acknowledge the savings in closing prisons, while Nozzolio, who as an upstater and a Republican relies on prisons, argued that savings could be found by eliminating duplicity of administration. He contended that prisons with nearby properties could share administrative staff and seemed to hope that these types of cuts could "forestall" actual prison closings.
Seizing upon the idea of transforming closed prisons, Aubry noted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed $100 million in capital grants to impacted areas could be useful in this area. He added his own misgivings about this funding, which he had previously voiced concerns about to outgoing SEDC leader Dennis Mullen at a budget hearing.
This meeting ultimately has an air of uselessness to it, as the Prison Closure Task Force hasn't even been named and really won't begin doing their work until after the budget is due. It's all part of budgetary maneuvering that is either admirable or despicable, depending on your point of view.
(Editor's Note: Reporting by the tireless workers of StateWatch)

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