Cuomo Eloquent and Accurate on Prisons
Governor Andrew Cuomo was both eloquent and accurate when he stated his desire to close prisons and end the practice of incarcerating New York City residents in order to provide full prisons and employment in Upstate New York.
An incarceration program is not an employment program . . . Don't put other
people in prison in order to give some people jobs.
Unfortunately, New York State has spent thirty years incarcerating New York City residents in order to create jobs in areas far from New York City.
Ninety percent of those incarcerated in New York State on drug crimes are Black or Hispanic, even though 73% of those using illegal drugs in our state are neither Black or Hispanic. There has been a calculated effort to transfer voting power and economic opportunities to upstate communities through incarceration, and the practice should stop. With New York State facing more than ten billion dollars of deficits for each of the new few years, closing prisons helps close our budget gap while promoting productive citizenship for non-violent first-time offenders. The racial and regional discrimination represented by the current system must come to an end during the Andrew Cuomo years.
Healthier Prison Approach
Upstate Republicans are lobbying to keep their prisons and to have the Cuomo Administration close prisons in New York City. Governor Cuomo is reportedly considering closing fewer prisons than his original plan of up to 12 closings. He also is reportedly considering closing New York City prisons rather than prisons upstate.
Fewer closings and concentrated closings in New York City both represent the wrong approach.
By closing prisons in New York City, existing problems will be exacerbated. Given that prisoners come almost exclusively from New York City, having fewer prisons in New York City would result in even greater dislocation for those incarcerated as well as for their friends and families. Families of those incarcerated wish to visit and share experiences with prisoners, and moving prisons out of New York City will mean that even fewer families will be physically close enough to their incarcerated family members to visit regularly and inexpensively. The prisoners themselves have a healthier period of incarceration as well as a safer environment when they get regular visits from loved ones. The contact with the outside world promotes less traumatic re-entry and lower recidivism, thereby enhancing tax revenues for our city and our state while creating better lives for those seeking a second chance.
Governor Cuomo should both seek greater prison closings and concentrate those closings upstate. Our state's Republicans have benefited politically from the status quo - a system in which New York City residents and Black and Hispanic New Yorkers are sent to prison in large numbers in order to boost both the voting power and the economies of upstate communities.