A few people have brought this story to my attention (lots of people are writing about it; I link to the LoHud blog because it has an actual copy of the letter).
Apparently, politicians surrounding Sing Sing's fabled prison wouldn't be too perturbed to see it close.
It has 1,700 prisoners; Gov. Andrew Cuomo has the authority to close 3,700 prison beds, and north country legislators are dutifully trying to avoid any of those beds being in their districts.
The only problem? Sing Sing is a maximum security correctional facility. Gov. Cuomo has noted that most of the excess capacity in prisons in the state are at mediums and minimums. And the union representing prison guards say that maxes are at 122 percent capacity.
So, would getting rid of 1,700 beds count? And how would the state deal with the fact that they're cutting bed where they need them, instead of where they don't need them?
Here are the two lines of speculation that I've heard on this:
First, maybe they build a new maximum security facility... maybe even somewhere in the north country, which is without one.
The proceeds for Sing Sing's potential sale — which sits on some pricey real estate that could easily be redeveloped — would fund the new prison, so that's an imperfect but plausible retort for the screaming and hollering that would happen over the cost of a new facility.
There are two problems with that: First, is it really politically tenable right now to build a new prison, anywhere, considering the state's dire finances and the fact that we're trying to close prisons, not open them?
Second, prisoner-rights advocates note that sending prisoners far, far away from their families is pretty awful for everyone involved. Having them closer to home will, in the long run, help reduce repeat offenses.
The second line of speculation is: What they could do is, "wave a magic wand" and just say, "Person X was at a maximum facility, but he can be moved to a medium now."
But it makes me wonder if the math could really work out. Gov. Cuomo has proposed getting rid of 3,700 beds in the system. If nearly half of those are at one prison, and the prison is a max, there would still be tons of excess capacity in mediums and minimums, and it still doesn't solve the problem with a 122-percent capacity at maximums.
So it's a whole lot of speculation, the product of the fact that the governor hasn't announced where the closings are going to happen. We're curious as to when the prison closures will be announced. People are saying it could be this week or next, though again, this is a whole bucket of speculation.