Cuomo wants quicker process for closing New York prisons


ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is recommending a proposal that would give him the ability to close state prisons on a faster timeline.

The measure is included in Cuomo’s budget proposal, which was rolled out Tuesday. The proposal would allow the governor to close state prisons if he gives at least a 90-day notice to legislative leaders.

Current law requires the head of New York’s prison agency to give a year’s notice before closing a correctional facility, according to a memorandum in support of the proposal. It says that the state’s prison population has fallen by thousands since late 1999 and that more than a dozen facilities have closed since the early 2010s.

New York “must be able to act expeditiously to eliminate excess prison capacity in order to use scarce taxpayer dollars as efficiently and prudently as possible,” according to the document.

The correctional officers’ union criticized Cuomo’s budget and said past prison closures under the governor’s administration have forced the state’s “most dangerous criminals into close quarters with one another.”

“We will fight tirelessly for our members to preserve their livelihood and make sure our prison system is as safe as possible,” Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, said in a prepared statement.

Rich Azzopardi, senior advisor to Cuomo, took issue with the union’s statement that dangerous criminals were forced close together due to the prison closures, saying that “as past closures have not touched maximum security prisons, their argument doesn’t stand up to the facts.”

If approved, the measure would be effective from April 2020 through March 2021.

John Flanagan, the Republican state Senate minority leader, described the 90-day notice as unfair and arbitrary and said the union should be involved on the topic.

“The timeline is too short, and it doesn’t give enough input from people who are affected,” he said.

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