SOUTHPORT, N.Y. (WETM) – The maximum-security Southport Correctional Facility is one of six New York correctional facilities scheduled to close on March 10, 2022.

The correctional facility currently employs 405 staff and houses 286 male inmates.

According to DOCCS, the six facilities set to close are Moriah Shock, Ogdensburg, Downstate, Southport, Rochester, and Willard Correctional.

The department says the closure is due to a measure in the New York State budget “to close state prisons as the incarcerated population continues to decline and as a fiscally prudent and safe way to save taxpayer dollars.”

Southport and the five other facilities set to close were chosen “based on a variety of factors, including 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. Consideration of the impact of the recently enacted HALT and Less Is More legislation was also weighed.”

We will be able to safely absorb the incarcerated population into vacant beds available at other institutions and relocate the Drug Treatment Campus functions to Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility (Chautauqua County), the work release program at Rochester will be moved to Orleans Correctional Facility (Orleans County), and Elmira Correctional Facility (Chemung County) will expand its reception footprint to absorb the incoming who would have first gone to Downstate Correctional Facility.  ​

Southport Correctional Facility opened in 1988 as a “supermax” prison and had several riots in the 1990s. In 1991 three guards were held hostage by inmates at the prison.

As of November 8, 2021, the total incarcerated population in New York state correctional facilities is 31,469. According to DOCCS, this represents both a total reduction in excess of 12,700 individuals since January 1, 2020, and the lowest total incarcerated population in New York State prisons since 1984.

New York leads the nation with the lowest imprisonment rate of any large state.

The 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

In his reaction, 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. “Working with Senator O’Mara to get further details.”

The advocacy organization Release Aging People in Prison also responded to the announcement, commending the decision. Joe Saldana, Director of the RAPP Campaign, spoke out against the conditions in Southport Correctional and called on Governor Hochul to continue efforts to end “mass incarceration.”

We are pleased that these six facilities will soon close. Among these facilities, Southport, a prison dedicated exclusively to solitary confinement for decades, tortured countless souls and ripped apart many families. However, New York’s prisons still hold roughly two times more incarcerated people today than in the 1970s, at the dawn of our nation’s mass incarceration era. Therefore, Governor Hochul and the legislature must use their powers to safely release people from prison. The Governor must use her clemency powers frequently, inclusively, and transparently. She can and should end mass incarceration with the stroke of a pen. The legislature must pass the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills. Without these measures, and despite these closures, thousands will continue to needlessly languish behind bars. Tens of thousands of Black and Latinx families are counting on New York’s leaders to bring their loved ones home.

Joe Saldana, RAPP Campaign Director