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North Country News

Orange Ribbon Campaign Supports Suspended Dannemora Workers

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Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau/Facebook
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Orange ribbons are appearing on trees, on poles and in windows across the North Country.  It’s an effort to show support for Clinton Correctional Facility administrators and staff that many local residents feel are being made scapegoats in the aftermath of the escape of two maximum security prisoners.

The orange ribbon campaign was inspired by the Facebook page of Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau.  He created an icon variation of the ubiquitous cause ribbon. This one is orange with the words “I Stand By Steve” written across the image.

Steve refers to Steve Racette, the now former superintendent of the Clinton Correctional in Dannemora.  He was among a dozen people suspended Tuesday from their jobs at the prison.

Retired  corrections officer  Rick Gonyea is spearheading an effort to place orange ribbons in communities and across rural roads in the North Country.   “It’s important to be showing these guys that we support them no matter what happens.  We know that they’ve got clean records, work records.  Steve had 37 years and never had an issue. Always did his job and security minded. He’s a very likeable guy. He’s professional. He’s fair. He’s consistent.  The orange ribbon is just to show the support for the fellows that are getting locked out.  It just doesn’t seem fair.”

Gonyea is among many who feel those forced out are scapegoats and Albany should redirect blame.   “What happens nowadays your superintendent does not have, let’s say, any power to run his prison anymore. They all have to call Albany and get permission out of Albany.  Such as when they had the fight in the yard. He wanted to close it down.  This is two weeks before the escape. And he was denied because it would cost too much money to close the whole facility down and frisk everybody’s cell.  If that would have been done those holes in the wall would have definitely been seen.  So my whole thing is it’s the Commissioner of Corrections and Governor Cuomo’s administration that makes these decisions.”

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey sees the orange ribbons as she attends meetings across the region.  She says she’s livid over how the Department of Corrections is handling the aftermath of the escape. She calls the orange ribbons a wonderful show of respect for former Superintendent Steve Racette.   “His being placed in administrative leave is a question of politics playing to the national media. It’s terribly unfair and I believe unprecedented and unacceptable.  That having been said I will clearly work with the new administration as it comes in because Steve Racette would not want me, or any of the fantastic staff at Clinton Correctional facility, to do anything other than to move on and do the jobs well.  I have driven by some of the ribbons as I’ve been on the road today and they will be at my house on my tree.”

On Wednesday, the Department of Corrections named Michael Kirkpatrick the new Superintendent of the Clinton Correctional Facility.  New security protocols were also imposed at the maximum security prison in Dannemora.
The new protocols include increased cell searches, required and unpredictable bed checks, staffing and supervision changes, and installation of new security technology in tunnels and heartbeat detection monitors at vehicle screening locations.

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