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Henry Joel Simmons | July 11, 2011
When he took office with a $10 billion budget shortfall, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made closing detention centers a priority. Following through on a recent deal with the state legislature to close seven prisons as part of a budget agreement, Gov. Cuomo has finally named the prisons that will shut down.
No maximum-security prisons were closed, and the load was spread across the state to avoid upsetting any particular party or geographic region. The shutdowns will allow New York’s correctional system to shed about 3,800 prison beds, and save around $184 million over the next two years.
New York’s system has seen dramatic improvements in recent years. The state’s prison population has been on sharp decline thanks to a number of important legislative efforts. The state has repealed several counterproductive tough-on-crime era drug laws, and it has expanded parole, probation, and work release programs. Most importantly, New York has seen a steady reduction in violent and property crime in recent years following its reforms. These reductions have come in the middle of an economic crisis – an environment which is traditionally thought to lead to increased crime rates. With reduced crime rates, prisons are being closed and consolidated. New York is one of the few states with a correctional system that is below capacity, as opposed to the numerous overcrowded states that are still worried about the implications of Brown v. Plata. New York’s job is far from complete, but the state should be commended for these exceptional achievements.