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Local officials pan plans to close Moriah Shock Correctional Facility

This week the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, or DOCCS, announced that six prison facilities across New York State will close on March 10th, 2022. Among them is the Moriah Shock Facility in Essex County. Officials in the region are not pleased with the decision, not only because of the community impact, but the loss of the unique programs provided at the facility.

The Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility is a minimum security facility with a current staff of 107 and 74 incarcerated people, with a capacity of 300, according to DOCCS.

Republican Town of Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava is astounded that Moriah Shock was chosen to be shuttered because he says the programs there are much different than in other correctional facilities.

“It’s actually a program that offers alcohol and substance abuse treatment and you have education classes. Most inmates leave there with a GED. They have work programs. And it’s a six month sentence. Many of those sentences were reduced from a three to five year sentence," explains Scozzafava. "So I was really surprised to hear that they would close that facility. I do understand that the inmate population is decreasing but that’s the kind of programs that are needed, what Moriah Shock provided. So I was really dumbfounded as to why they would close that facility.”

Republican State Senator Dan Stec of the 45th district plans to challenge the decision.

“In the case of Moriah Shock a unique program. A lot of your progressives they wanted different programs. They wanted to treat substance and alcohol abuse. Moriah Shock I mean that was a special program created to do that. So I was very surprised and disappointed to learn that they’re closing that. That’s the program that you would think that they would be sending more people to and investing more in not getting away from." Senator Stec emphasizes, "I’m not done with the Moriah Shock issue because I think that there’s a special circumstance here. You know I mean Friday Governor Hochul said we need more alcohol and drug treatment. Well guess what? That’s what they were getting at Moriah Shock.”

Supervisor Scozzafava says it’s not just local and regional officials criticizing the plan to close Moriah Shock.

“Former inmates are writing letters as to how that program turned their lives around. Recidivism rate is much lower in that program. So again what their reasoning is I don’t know. It befuddles me.”

North Country Chamber President Garry Douglas calls the entire prison closure process flawed and shortsighted.

“The other thing that makes no sense is that they’re not really factoring in what the redevelopment prospects are for a site after they close it. I mean the state should care about that.”

New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association President Michael Powers echoed that sentiment during a WAMC interview.

“They’re being shuttered with no plan in place. No plan in place. There’s nothing in place. I can count probably 16 shut correctional facilities since 2009 or ’10 that are just vacant lots that could be used for rehabilitation purposes, a better consistent model of rehabilitation that we’ve been harping about. It all falls on deaf ears. No conversation with the stakeholders.”

The inmate population will be transferred to other institutions and the Department of Corrections will work with unions regarding staff transfers. The state expects to save $142 million by closing the six facilities.

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