Southport Correctional closing: Local officials react, vow to fight for the prison

Local News

SOUTHPORT, N.Y. (WETM) – Local leaders expressed shock and anger after learning the Southport Correctional Facility set to close in 2022 after 30 years.

The facility is one of six New York state prisons that will close on March 10, 2022, in a move that the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision says will save the state $142 million.

Chemung County Legislator Rodney Strange, whose district includes the facility, said he was shocked by the announcement and only heard of the decision through 18 News on Monday morning.

“This is really devastating news for all of Chemung County and the surrounding areas,” said Strange. “I heard about it during the budget process that they were going to look at closing six prisons but he never thought it was gonna be this one.”

The news is especially shocking since Southport had recently undergone a $20 million renovation.

State Senator Tom O’Mara says the decision “flys in the face so all the investment that’s been made in the facility in recent years.”

“Governor Hochul’s abruptly announced decision to close the Southport Correctional Facility comes as a great shock to this community and region. It arrived with no advance warning and, obviously, no meaningful local input or outreach to local officials or the correctional officers union. The surprising decision impacts hundreds of local correctional officers and prison staff, which means hundreds of local families and a devastating toll on already hard-hit local economies. It shows a disregard for Upstate New York’s communities and simply turns a blind eye to an increasingly violent crime wave throughout this state, as well as a currently explosive and dangerous prison environment that threatens correctional officers and prison staff. Governor Hochul needs to be transparent about its decision to close Southport.”

DOCCS says factors that went into the closure include physical infrastructure, program offerings, facility security level, specialized medical and mental health services, proximity of other facilities in the area to minimize the impact to staff, potential re-use options and areas of the state where prior closures have occurred in order to minimize the impact to communities. 

Elmira Correctional Facility will expand its reception footprint to absorb the incoming who would have first gone to Downstate Correctional Facility.  ​

More than 400 employees at Southport will have the opportunity to transfer to another facility and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision says no layoffs are anticipated at this time.

DOCCS will work closely with the various bargaining units to provide staff with opportunities for priority placement via voluntary transfers, as well as priority employment at other facilities or other state agencies as a result of the formal Civil Service process that is followed with the closure of a correctional facility. 

“We owe it to them to fight for them and fight for their jobs,” said Strange. “We will do everything we possibly can to keep this prison open.

Michael Powers, president of the NYSCOPBA, responded to the announcement saying “costly” policy decisions in Albany are to blame and are at the expense of NYSCOPBA employees.

“The numbers tell the real story; despite closing over two dozen facilities the past 10 years, violent attacks on our members have doubled and yet nothing is being done to address it. Where is the reinvestment in the facilities to make these prisons safer working environments? My heart goes out to all of the individuals whose lives have been severely impacted by this announcement and know that our organization will hold the department accountable every step of the way. At some point, the State needs to realize that these choices are more than just buildings and tax-saving measures, these are life-altering decisions that upend lives and destroy communities.”

MICHAEL POWERS, NYSCOPBA PRESIDENT

Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility, Willard Drug Treatment Campus, Downstate Correctional Facility, and Rochester Correctional Facility will also close on March 10.

In his reaction to Southport’s closure, Chemung County Executive Chris Moss targeted Governor Kathy Hochul’s office for poor communication in the announcement.

“So much for improved communication between local officials and the Governor’s Office, we find out via a press release that the Southport Facility is one of the selected to be shuttered,” Moss said.

O’Mara says he believes Hochul hasn’t held to her word of being a transparent Governor since taking office earlier this year.

“Her actions, to date, even though it’s been a short period of time, are not standing up to that.”

18 News has reached out to the Governor’s office for comment but have not heard back at this time.

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