February 20, 2019
Statement From Assemblyman Phil Palmesano:
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) today blasted Gov. Cuomo for his proposal to close three additional correctional facilities in New York State through amendments to his Executive Budget proposal.
Palmesano said that prison closures in recent years are to blame for creating an increasingly dangerous situation inside our state correctional facilities. With an inmate population concentrated in fewer facilities and an administration championing policies that cater to convicts at the expense of dedicated law enforcement officials, Palmesano is outraged and urging his colleagues and the governor to change course and stop these closures.
“Enough is Enough,” said Palmesano.
Palmesano noted the absurdity of closing more prisons before first ending the dangerous practice of double-celling and double-bunking inmates and removing thousands of double-bunked and double-celled units from all state correctional facilities.
“It’s a pressure cooker. It’s a powder-keg environment,” said Palmesano. “We’re seeing thousands of inmates test positive for drugs every year. We’re seeing dangerous gang activity. The Department of Corrections has re-classified dangerous, violent criminals and housed them in medium-security facilities. We’re making it even harder for correction officers to promote safety by continually limiting and even taking away important disciplinary tools, including the use of special housing units. On top of it all, our staffing levels are inadequate,” said Palmesano.
“Closing more facilities is a bad idea at the worst possible time.”
Palmesano noted that the governor also killed a common-sense pilot program last year to increase and improve package screening to help curtail the increased flow of drugs into our facilities. The Acting Corrections Commissioner also dismissed a suggestion from Palmesano at the Joint Legislative Hearing on Public Protection in January to install canine units at every correctional facility as ‘too costly.’
“Really?” asked Palmesano. “Gov. Cuomo wants to triple the minimum wage paid to the inmates who could be murderers and rapists working in our prisons, but refuses to make common-sense investments that would enhance the safety and well being of our brave men and women working as correction officers. This is yet another aggravating example of misguided priorities from the Cuomo administration. The governor is clearly more interested in pleasing progressive activists and dangerous inmates rather than looking out for the safety of our correction officers,” said Palmesano.
“Just look at the assault statistics,” said Palmesano.
Since 2013, inmate-on-staff assaults have increased by 50.8 percent (from 645 to 973). Inmate-on-inmate assaults have increased 51.7 percent (from 767 to 1,164).
“This is alarming and unacceptable,” he said,
“Forcing inmates into fewer facilities, failing to maintain adequate staffing levels, taking away important disciplinary tools and refusing to crack down on drugs inside our prisons has gotten us to this point. The governor needs to change course, and instead he’s doubling down on a plan that did not work. He needs to take responsibility for this and realize that his failed policies created this dangerous environment. We need to focus on providing our dedicated correction officers with the tools and resources they need to protect themselves and protect the inmates who really want to pay their debt to society and rehabilitate their lives,” said Palmesano.
“Closing facilities has been a disaster. Even more prison closures, especially at this time, will make things worse and even more dangerous,” said Palmesano.