State and local officials, union leaders and employees are hoping to stop a state decision to close the Clinton Annex prison in Dannemora, New York. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley was at a rally Saturday as closure by the end of March looms.
In late December the Cuomo administration announced that the Watertown and Gowanda Correctional facilities and the Clinton Annex, part of the Clinton Correctional Facility, will be closed by March 30th.
On Saturday dozens of local officials, employees and union members gathered in Dannemora for a Save the Annex rally. Union officials say the Annex has operated for 122 years and NYSCOPBA Northern Region Vice President John Roberts says there’s no reason to close it now. “We’re very proud to support this local rally for the Clinton Annex. Three hundred jobs in this community is a lot of jobs to cut.”
Democratic Assemblyman D. Billy Jones’s 115th district includes Clinton Annex and is a former corrections officer. “We need to do everything we can to save Clinton Annex and you have my word along with other state and local officials we will do everything we can to not lose one job in that facility and not to have people displaced. We cannot have people moving out of the community. Can’t have it. Won’t have it. We have to keep the jobs here in the North Country. Keep Clinton Annex open.”
Republican State Senator Dan Stec of the 45th district criticized what he described as Albany’s revolving door policy toward law enforcement that is compromising public safety. “And then people forget the history. You know why are these prisons here in the North Country? Because the North Country stepped up and they took them when no other communities wanted to. Three hundred jobs is a devastating effect to a small community in the North Country. And the state has a poor history when it closes these facilities of not following through and making sure that these facilities get redeveloped. They’re let go. They become a blight on the community. But these North Country communities that stepped forward and took these prisons into their communities when no one else would cannot be forgotten.”
Dannemora Town Supervisor Bill Chase claims the state is closing the Annex in retribution for the 2015 escape by Richard Matt and David Sweat, which set off a three-week manhunt. “In my opinion this closure is a result of the escape. It’s a payback. It’s a vindictive governor and it’s a personal attack here on all of the good hard working people of the North Country.”
Woman in Crowd: “Exactly.”
Dannemora resident David White works at the adjacent Clinton Correctional facility, referred to as Clinton Main or the Main. He says closing the Annex is impractical. “I really don’t know how they can close the Annex. The Main can’t run without most parts of the Annex staying open. There’s vital parts of the Annex that the Main needs. The storehouse runs out of the Annex. And what that is it houses all of the food. And per state law we have to keep seven days’ worth of food for the inmates. We don’t have the room over in the Main to do that. The Main can only handle two days’ worth of food. It doesn’t save anything by closing the Annex down. We’d have to create a whole new spot to house all that food. So how are you saving money that way? That’s just one example.”
There are 277 staff at Clinton Annex and a current inmate population of 408. It has a maximum capacity of 735. At the time the closure was announced the Department of Corrections expected the closure of the three facilities will save $89 million annually.