Reed and O’Mara Slam State Dems For Shutting Down Prisons, While Considering Heroin Injection Sites

June 5, 2019

Statement From Congressman Tom Reed and Upstate GOP State Lawmakers:

Today, Rep. Tom Reed took aim at Albany Democrats for their support of heroin injection sites while Governor Cuomo continues to shutter prisons across the state. “Why would anyone believe it’s a good idea to close more prisons while creating the conditions for increased homelessness, violence and crime, and area drug dealers with heroin injection sites,” Tom said. “Common sense has flown out the window under one-party control in Albany.”
“It would be unfair to the hardworking people of our state if we allowed our communities to become a drug pusher’s paradise – with no jails,” Tom concluded.
This follows the announcement of the closure of two state prisons by Labor Day, including the Livingston Correctional Facility, a medium security prison in Livingston County which employees nearly 400 employees and houses close to 900 inmates.
Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal last month introduced a new bill to open five heroin injection sites around the state.
“Injection sites are not the solution to the opioid epidemic and government has no business aiding in the use of illegal drugs. By normalizing injection sites, we are normalizing drug use,” said Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes. “These sites will bring an increase in dealers, drugs and crime into our communities. What many don’t realize is “safe” injection sites still have risks and do not guarantee an individual won’t overdose.”
Byrnes went on to criticize the closure of the Livingston Correctional Facility.
“The loss of Livingston Correctional Facility is a loss of over 300 jobs in Livingston County, a devastating number in a community of its size. I’m determined to find answers to why this prison, which has undergone numerous renovations, was targeted,” said Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes. “Livingston Correctional was at almost full capacity, meaning over 800 inmates will be transferred across the state to crowd the prisons that remain. While Gov. Cuomo believes that closing prisons is necessary, it’s at the expense of correctional officers who will be put at risk of inmate violence due to overcrowding.”
“I am proud to stand with our amazing correctional officers and professional prison employees to fight against Governor Cuomo’s reckless closing of prisons. Our state prisons are overcrowded and unsafe for correctional workers, which also makes them unsafe for the inmates, particularly those who are double-bunked,” Senator Tom O’Mara said, “It’s unclear why Governor Cuomo would close a facility that is almost at full capacity and, in fact, has in excess of 100 inmates double bunked currently. Over 800 inmates will be transferred across the state into facilities forcing additional double bunking and imposing additional safety risks for correctional officers and staff. If New York was housing inmates safely and eliminating double bunking, no prison would close. While Governor Cuomo believes that closing prisons is necessary, it’s at the expense of the safety of both correctional officers and inmates.”

O’Mara added his criticism of heroin injection sites.
“I have said from day one, the first time I heard this idea raised within the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, that it’s bad public policy. It puts at risk the overall quality and safety of local communities and neighborhoods. It sends a wrong message about the ravages and tragedy of drug abuse. There’s nothing ‘safe’ about injecting heroin. It opens a dangerous door to drug dealers and pushers, and the crime and violence that they bring. We need to remain focused on devoting our resources on prevention, education, and treatment,” O’Mara concluded.
“The answer to the growing heroin epidemic is not access to more heroin through open injection sites. This is a dangerous and reckless proposal. We need to invest more state resources in prevention, education, and, most importantly, comprehensive treatment so addicts can regain control and reclaim their lives. We must have compassion, but that doesn’t mean enabling and supporting illegal and deadly drug use.” Assemblyman Phil Palmesano said. “Governor Cuomo’s decision to close Livingston Correctional Facility is a reckless decision that makes no sense whatsoever. Especially when they are utilizing 806 of the 874 beds and the state has invested millions of dollars for various capital and infrastructure improvements at the facility, including a new roof and water lines. The Governor certainly likes to brag about the number of correctional facilities he has closed during his tenure but refuses to take credit for the dangerous “powder keg” environment his closures, coupled with other dangerous policies, has created within our state’s correctional institutions. Before we even discuss closing one correctional facility, we should first end the dangerous practice of double bunking and double celling inmates and finally eliminate the thousands of double bunks and double cells. These conditions are unacceptable and has led to the dangerous rise in inmate assaults on staff and other inmates by more than 50% respectively over the past five years in our state correctional facilities.
“The decision to close Livingston Correction Facility is highly questionable, in both process and practicality,” Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb said. “The employees at the facility and the entire community deserve immediate answers from Gov. Cuomo. Shutting down this facility with only 90 days’ notice will have real-world impacts on the men and women who are now forced to relocate, and on localities which lose a critical economic presence in the region.”

Both the State of Vermont and Australia have released studies citing the danger of injection sites.