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Hudson Valley News

The Proposed Closure of Beacon Correctional Causes Concerns

Jail cell

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed closing two correctional facilities. One is in the Hudson Valley, and it’s the state’s only minimum security prison for women. And now there is concern about what will happen to the programs available to these women.

Governor Cuomo recommends closing what he called two of the least efficient prison facilities in the state. One is Bayview in Manhattan. The other is the Beacon Correctional Facility in Dutchess County - the state’s only minimum security prison for women. Last month, during his proposed 2013-2014 budget address, Cuomo mentioned that Beacon has a 53-percent vacancy rate.

Soffiyah Elijah is the executive director of The Correctional Association of New York, an independent non-profit organization. And while she does support downsizing in general, she questions whether closing Beacon Correctional is a wise decision, as she says the Beacon inmates have certain programs that might not be available to them when they are transferred to higher-security prisons, programs she says that prepare them for successful re-entry into society and reduce recidivism.

She explains that Beacon Correctional is the only women’s facility with a work crew program, through which women clean up parks, or pick up trash along highways, for example. As to whether a work crew program would be replicated at other facilities, a state Division of Budget spokesman says that every Department of Corrections and Community Supervision facility has programs to help the incarcerated re-direct their lives to become productive, law-abiding members of society. However, he could not speak specifically to whether the work crew program would be replicated, given the early stages of the budget process. He added, though, that programs available to inmates, in general, include educational and vocational training. These types of programs, says the Correctional Association’s Elijah, are important.

The Division of Budget spokesman says the women would be transferred to two of the state’s medium security prisons for women – Albion Correctional Facility and Taconic Correctional Facility.

Democratic State Senator Terry Gipson, whose district includes Beacon, says he plans to fight the proposed closure of the Beacon Correctional Facility.

He says he is not convinced that the state will realize the savings they claim. He is also concerned about the economic impact on the city. And he says, there are no plans for reuse of the building, which is also a concern for State Assemblyman Frank Skartados, a Democrat whose district also includes Beacon. He, too, says he is concerned about any negative economic impact the prison’s closure would have on the City.  

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