ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — Time is ticking for Southport Correctional Facility. In November 2021, Southport was named as one of six state security institutions to close in March 2022. The facility now has less than two months to transfer more than 200 inmates and 400 staff members.
DOCCS is working 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. There will be no layoffs due to these closures.Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
Southern Tier lawmakers told 18 News they were blindsided by the announcement, saying they received no prior notice. Chemung County has adjusted to the change, but lawmakers say the transfer process is only one concern they have about the decision.
Incarcerated individuals will be transferred to another facility based on their security classification, as well as medical and mental health needs. There will also be individuals who will complete their sentences and are released, as well as those granted parole.Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
The closure is part of a larger measure to close prisons due to the declining prisoner population and to save taxpayer dollars, according to New York State. Local officials criticized the move, saying these buildings sit dormant for years and are unable to be used in other capacities.
“Are they gonna turn it over to the county? Are they going to sell it to the county? Are they going to sell to the private sector? Who are they going to market it to? I’ve heard all kinds of rumors out there, but nothing that’s been substantiated,” Chemung County Executive Chris Moss told 18 News.
The state invested $20 million recently to renovate Southport, making the closure a surprise to many local leaders. In the future, it is unclear what the building could be used for.
“It’s a high-tech building with a lot of security infrastructure. It’s only going to be suited for a certain type of business unless you’re going to remove all that technology,” Moss continued.
Beyond the physical structure and transfer process, the county is also monitoring the economic toll the closure could take. While Moss is unsure what the impact will be, he knows families will inevitably leave the area to relocate.
“We saw the latest census. We don’t want to see any more people leave our area, but the fact the matter is those corrections officers and the civilian staff members go to restaurants. They buy lunch. They buy gas. They spend money right here in Chemung County,” Moss concluded.
The closure will be final on March 10. It is unclear what will happen to the building, but Moss says the county will be contacting New York State within the next few weeks to understand the next steps.