NEW YORK (WWTI) — New York State Senator Patty Ritchie sent a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul on November 16 outlining how the closing of the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility will negatively affect the community.
On November 8 the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision announced that six New York prisons are set to close on March 10 of 2022 due to a continued decline in the incarcerated population. This included the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility located in St. Lawrence County.
Senator Ritchie listed several reasons she believes the facility should remain open in the letter after reviewing the list of criteria for the closings, as well as asked Governor Hochul to reconsider the decision. She also offered suggestions on what the facility could be used for in the future after its closing.
She started off the letter by expressing how the closing will impact those in the North Country and well as pointed out the funds and efforts that have gone into the infrastructure of the building. The facility is currently undergoing a $10 million heating system upgrade and had $2 million in roof repairs completed over the last couple of years.
Senator Ritchie also highlighted the services the facility currently offers including the community-run garden which helped grow nearly 40,000 pounds of produce for local food pantries, senior citizens, and other North Country residents. In addition to having the opportunity for incarcerated individuals to fulfill roles like these, they also were able to receive mental health services next door at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center.
The letter also expressed concern about what the building will be used for once OCF officially closes. Although the DOCCS released statements planning on repurposing the building, Senator Ritchie pointed out that the same was said for the Watertown Correctional Facility which closed last year that has still not been repurposed.
She referred to the closing of the Watertown Facility again when regarding the DOCCS’s promises to relocate staff. She said although some were able to be employed by facilities close to home others were forced to leave the area or positions within the Department entirely. She fears that the same will occur with the employees at OCF.
Senator Ritchie also voiced her opinions on how the facility could be used in the future. She pointed out that the dorm style rooms in the spaced out facility would be useful for programs like “Puppies Behind Bars” where incarcerated individuals are able to train service dogs.
She also suggested the facility be used to house incarcerated individuals from Rikers Island to help alleviate overcrowding and provide individuals with a safer environment. Another option Senator Ritchie mentioned was using the building as an all-female facility.
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