Assorted eyebrow-raisers

Doing some math: Gov. Spitzer wants to close some minimum-security prison camps. These camps in total have 939 inmates and 584 full- and part-time staff… (So, minimum security in New York State works out to less than two inmates per staff member?!)

Reading speculation that last week’s big bad Iranian threat against U.S. ships could have just been sailors fooling around

Hearing WSYR’s Dan Cummings intoning journalistically on last night’s newscast: “Smurfette, the only female Smurf…”

6 Replies to “Assorted eyebrow-raisers”

  1. Boy that Dan Cummings sure knows how to get the headlines going! Wow, what a flash!

    When I worked in news radio, we called that “fluff”– filler material because there was nothing else to talk about. Nowadays, the purpose of fluff is to replace the important news. Can’t have those American people thinking for themselves, now!

  2. Now, here is the conundrum: what, exactly, do we have the people who used to work at Camp Pharsalia do instead of guard a kid or two? I’m thinking this is not the kind of work that builds initiative and problem-solving skills.

    And, the guards’ union is right about how it impacts the community– the surfeit of prison-jobs was the big upstate-economic-development state-run enterprise of the Pataki years. While adding that prison, provisioning, and construction job cluster was not exactly effective at spurring growth, it did create some jobs. AND, it created some demography that could keep those places from registering huge population losses. That actually counts, if your municipality is collecting some federal money for say, highways, or even for the number of people in your State Senate district. Not, mind you, that prisoners vote or use highways…

    Upstate prisons and youth facilities, plus draconian Rockefeller drug laws, have been a means by which men of color of the downstate area can be “counted” as population (power and influence) in depopulating upstate rural areas. This is nothing if not an anti-democratic (in both senses) trend. Yet, reversing it requires some replacement jobs. What to do? When we talk about high taxes in NY, we are surely talking about this kind of government influence-peddling enterprise. How to dismantle it?

  3. Half of that population you cited was at the medium security facility, and I gather more of the staff. Later statistics in the article show a DOCS-wide average of over 2 staff positions per inmate.

    I worked at several prisons in the area as a VISTA volunteer in the early 1990’s–ranging from the max facility at Auburn to the camp at Pharsalia. The minimums are really just like the summer YMCA camps kids go to. Cabins stuck out in the middle of nowhere. That’s their safety, no one from the Bronx is likely to wander away. Also, folks at minimum security are, at most, a year away from release.

    The medium security facilities were always seen as the places for potential problems. SUNY campuses with razor wire. Many were built exactly the same during the big prison building binge in the 1980’s, to deal with the huge increase in population (Rocky’s drug laws–say hello to crack!) These “cookie cutters” as they were called, have no cells, just big “dorm rooms” with bunks– lots of common areas. While more difficult to work, correction officer unions loved them for the staffing requirements. They also had longer term stays; from 1 to 4 years. Sometimes, prisoners would get transferred down from maximum security as their sentences got closer to an end.

    I was shocked to see in Spitzer’s press release that it cost $6 million/year to run Pharsalia–and that the place was due for $2+ million in renovations. There’s hardly anything there. Their major outlet for prisoners was raising game fowl to stock the forests for hunting season or to work clean up details in local communities.

  4. I believe that the correction officers will all be absorbed in facilities close to the ones scheduled to close–Camp Georgetown will easily stand in for Pharsalia, for instance. PEF, the main union for staff other than correction officers, was not very upset at the closure notice, taking a relatively conciliatory tone–my suspicion is that there will not be layoffs, but more early retirements etc.

    Robinia’sr point is well taken, however. The trend is toward more prison downsizing, not less (thank goodness.) The state must do something for upstate economies other than prisons. It is also unconscionable to count the 75% of the DOCS population that is from NYC as residents of upstate communities.

    One question–why does Onondaga County have no DOCS facilities? Was this done on purpose? Did politicians either fail to grab the pork barrel or make a principled stand in opposition?

  5. Thanks much for all the information, Phil. I knew there had to be more to it than that.

    When I first read the headline in Saturday’s paper, I at first thought Spitzer was going to acknowledge economic overreliance on prisons in his “State of the Upstate” address this week. As if.

  6. “Rationalizing” NY prison policy due to shrinking numbers of inmates does make sense, but it will be very painful.

    The real killer will be the Dillenburg Ruling which could, if it survives appeal, be the biggest thing to impact the Adirondacks in the last 100 years. This would effectively end the unusual system of tax payments on state owned land.

    Add that to the impact of shrinking our prison-industrial complex and the economic landscape of the Adirondacks could be changed drastically. Better, worse, more real? Hard to say.

    On the other hand, Spitzer did drop some coin in the region yesterday with the announcement of the sale of Wyeth in Rouses Point – $1 million to “aid” the process came from the state. Plus other grants.

    What a shell game of shifting money we have here in NYS.

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