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State officials call Gowanda closing ‘especially cruel’

State officials stand outside the Gowanda Correctional Facility.

GOWANDA – In the wake of Monday’s announcement by the Gov. Andrew Cuomo administration that Gowanda Correctional Facility is one of three state prisons scheduled for imminent closure, a contingent of state legislators, including Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt, joined with local officials and union representatives to denounce the cost-cutting move that will impact 600 employees. They noted that the decision will devastate employees and their families and undermine the community’s already vulnerable economy.

“Governor Cuomo’s announcement that the Gowanda Correctional Facility will close is not only untimely but demonstrates an ill-will toward hard-working Western New Yorkers. It is no secret that Gov. Cuomo and his allies in Albany have buckled under the pressures of pro-criminal special interest groups, but to make this announcement the week of Christmas is especially cruel,” said Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt.

“After months of putting their health and safety at risk to do their jobs in the midst of a pandemic, the hardworking men and women who staff Gowanda Correctional Facility have received their holiday ‘thanks’ from the state: notification that their place of employment is closing in a matter of weeks,” said Senator George Borrello, whose 57th Senate District encompasses the Cattaraugus County portion of the village of Gowanda.

The slated closure of Gowanda is one of three prisons targeted under the plan announced by the NYS Department of Correction and Community Supervision (DOCCS). The 2020-21 State Budget gave the Governor the authority to close an unspecified number of prisons with 90 days’ notice. The other facility closures announced this week include the Watertown Correctional Facility and the Annex at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. Altogether, more than 1,000 employees will be affected, including more than 600 at Gowanda.

Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio, who represents the 148th Assembly District and is the ranking minority member of the Assembly Committee on Corrections, underscored the fact that these closures will further undermine public safety in the state.

“This is the latest of the governor’s attempts to systematically dismantle the corrections system in New York state, which he has done since day one. The employees who work in corrections will be in greater danger from assault as inmates are transferred within the system,” said Giglio.

Gowanda Mayor David Smith indicated that while the state’s offer to work with employee unions on arranging voluntary transfers to other facilities may work for some families, for others, it will be impossible.

“Most Gowanda Correctional employees have deep roots in this community. They have spouses with jobs, children in the local school district and extended family in the area. The notion that they can easily relocate in just a few weeks’ time is simply insulting,” he said.

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