An announcement from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) that the Downstate Correctional Facility at Fishkill is among six state prisons that will be closing March 10 of next year came as a surprise to Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, according to a statement provided to the Business Journal.
“There has been no coordination between the Governor’s Office and Dutchess County on the closure of this large facility, nor a coordinated plan for the future use of the parcel and the hundreds of workers who will be affected,” Molinaro said. “Make no mistake: Inmates at Downstate are not being released; they will simply be transferred to remaining state prisons or to county jails throughout New York.”
Molinaro said the announcement of the closure left Dutchess County with more questions than answers.
Downstate, which has part of its property in Fishkill and part in Beacon, currently has 690 inmates amounting to just over half of its capacity of 1,221 prisoners. There is a staff of 644.
DOCCS said the closing of Downstate and the other prisons makes sense financially and operationally since the number of inmates in New York state continues to decline. It says that as of Nov. 1 there were 31,469 people incarcerated by the state, representing a drop in inmate population of 12,700 since Jan. 1, 2020 — the lowest number of people behind state bars since 1984.
“This is more than a 56% decline in population since the department’s high of 72,773 in 1999, with New York leading the nation with the lowest imprisonment rate of any large state,” DOCCS said.
The other prisons scheduled to be closed as of March 10 are:
- Ogdensburg Correctional Facility in St. Lawrence County, a medium-security facility with a capacity of 557 inmates but only 155 currently incarcerated. It has a staff of 268.
- Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in Essex County, a medium-security facility that has a capacity of 300 but only 74 prisoners and a staff of 107.
- Willard Drug Treatment Campus in Seneca County, which has a capacity of 664 but only 173 current inmates and a staff of 329.
- Southport Correctional Facility in Chemung County, with a capacity of 441 and 290 currently being held. It has a staff of 405.
- Rochester Corrections Facility in Monroe County, where 48 prisoners are being held. It as a capacity of 72 and a staff of 26.
DOCCS said that it is planning to transfer prisoners to other state facilities and that no staff layoffs are anticipated. It said that approximately $142 million will be saved as a result of the closures.
DOCCS said that it intends to work closely with the state’s Office of General Services and Empire State Development to arrange for re-use of the facilities that are to be closed. It did not indicate whether that would include trying to sell the properties for commercial development.
The Downstate Correctional Facility began as the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in the 1890s. Matteawan was closed in 1977.