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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Addie asks the Governor for a 'one on one' meeting on OCF

Here is the whole letter describing the situation. Check the last paragraph.

February 2, 2010
Governor David A. Paterson
Albany, NY 12248

Re: Proposed closure of Ogdensburg Correctional Facility

Dear Governor Paterson:
I respectfully request that you remove the proposed closure of the Ogdensburg
Correctional Facility by April 2011 from your proposed 2010-2011 budget during the 30 day
amendment period. I do not feel that the state will be well served by closing this facility and its
closure will have a devastating effect on the City of Ogdensburg and the North Country.
In the early 1980’s when the state needed to add capacity to the corrections system
Ogdensburg welcomed the facility, especially given that they were facing the downsizing of the
state operated St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. Other areas of the state fought the location of a
prison in their community. A few years later Ogdensburg welcomed a second facility, Riverview
Correctional Facility. The location of two facilities in Ogdensburg and the three others within
the hub has resulted in hundreds of North Country residents becoming state correction officers.
The correction officers at Ogdensburg and the other four Watertown Hub facilities are all North
Country residents. Further, hundreds of correction officers working at other facilities throughout
the state are North Country residents, putting in their time until they have enough seniority to
transfer back to the Watertown Hub.

The direct economic loss to Ogdensburg as calculated in your proposed budget is at least
$22 Million of the $23.9 Million in operating expenses, which is attributable to employee
compensation. The loss of $22 Million in compensation will be extremely devastating to the
North Country economy. However, that is only a fraction of the direct compensation loss
because those hundreds of North Country correction officers hoping to transfer back up north
will likely abandon their efforts and permanently leave the area, taking their compensation
elsewhere. The impact on the property tax base compounded with the crushing loss of dollars
and benefits that are pumped into the local economy will ravage Ogdensburg and St. Lawrence

There will be little state savings related to salary expenses by closing the facility.
Correction officers will not lose their jobs, instead they will be reassigned to other facilities and
professional staff will have the same experience. They will not be looking for other work locally
such as in the green jobs sector. They will uproot their families to finish out the roughly five to
ten years most of them have left and will retire elsewhere, possible even out of state.
The proposed budget also asserts that there will be $12,431,000 in five year capital cost
avoidance. Of that figure, $9,431,000 is designated for replacing the hot water boiler house.
This proposed capital project is baffling. There is no need for a new boiler house. In fact the
facility receives FREE steam heat based on a 25 year contract that the state’s Office of Mental
Health has with a private facility located on the psychiatric center’s grounds. There are nine
years left on that contract and that private facility is actually trying to work with OMH to make
changes to their contract so that they can expand their operation to generate 26 MW of power
from biomass, creating approximately 50 permanent new green jobs. The proposed upgrade of
the perimeter closed circuit television system for $800,000 is not an immediate need, nor is the
$200,000 rehabilitation of the Flower Building basement. The upgrade of the shower controls
for $300,000 should actually pay for itself in reduced water consumption. The estimated capital
cost avoidance is a theoretical and remotely possible savings.
Another compelling argument against closing the Ogdensburg facility is the impact this
closure will have on the security staff and inmate population. Throughout our state’s
correctional facilities there are 4000 double-bunked beds. The Ogdensburg Correctional Facility
has double bunked inmates just like other facilities. Dormitories are designed for fifty inmates.
Ten of those beds have become bunk beds (double bunked), so a dormitory unit now houses up
to sixty inmates. The closure of the Ogdensburg facility will exacerbate this problem. Even
when factoring in Department of Corrections projections of a reduced inmate population, there
will still be double bunking and the closure of the Ogdensburg facility and other medium
security facilities will max out the current double bunks and require further double bunking.
Double bunking dormitory style facilities presents increased risk to correction officers and
essentially warehouses inmates. The state has been working to get away from the warehousing
of inmates that occurred in the past within the Department of Corrections. We are finally seeing
the numbers of inmates that our facilities are designed to hold and the proposed closures will
only mandate further warehousing.

The Ogdensburg facility is the type of facility we should keep open. Ogdensburg is a
model of the kind of facility the state has been working to achieve through recent reform
measures. At the Ogdensburg facility there are rare inmate on inmate incidents as well as
inmate on staff incidents. The facility runs smoothly and repeatedly scores high on their regular
inspections. While I understand there are concerns about the distance family members must
travel to visit an inmate in Ogdensburg, the fact that there is minimal violence and inmates have
an environment conducive to making progress in their rehabilitation and educational programs
surely out weigh those inconveniences.

The state will not be well served by closing the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility. If
closed the actual cost savings will be minimal to the state, other facilities will be forced to
warehouse inmates at unsafe levels, undermining rehabilitation efforts and a community that has
always been a good partner with the state will be devastated. The state would be better served
by reducing the amount of administrative staff at the Department of Corrections. While the
inmate population has decreased markedly in the past decade, the amount of administrative staff,
particularly in Building 2 at the Harriman Campus in Albany has exploded, essentially doubling
in size. Cutting staff in Building 2 by twenty percent (20%) would immediately save the state
roughly $15 Million in salary and benefit expenses. Those 180 jobs can be more easily absorbed
in Albany than they can be in Ogdensburg.

I have been receiving emails and letters of support to keep the Ogdensburg facility open
since the presentation of your proposed 2010–2011 budget. They are increasing in volume daily.
The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators has appointed an ad hoc committee and the City
of Ogdensburg a task force to address the closure. Dozens of people attended a press conference
I held on the matter last week and hundreds of people attended a public rally last Friday to
support keeping the facility open. Thousands more North Country residents have signed
petitions to keep the facility open. The community support to keep the Ogdensburg Correctional
Facility open has been strong from the beginning and is only increasing in strength.

Thank you for your courteous consideration of my request. I would like the opportunity
to meet or speak with you to discuss this critical issue further. I can be reached on non-session
days at (315) 786-0284 and during session days at (518) 455-5545.
Addie J. Russell
Member of Assembly
118th “River” District


Anonymous said...


The Professor is not home. He is too busy with women not his wife.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

No mention of the money NY and Jefferson County just gave away to Upstate NY Power. Addie could use this money to help real projects and save real jobs. This money is destined for someone's bank account in the Caymans.

We need someone to champion the resistance against industrialization of the lake and river. Sen Aubertine has been hands off, Bill Owens is asleep somewhere trying not to piss off any voters, and the Governor is passing laws to give money away in green tax credits, while harming real people by closing real services.

We would sure like to see Addie step up on this one.

Rob Aliasso
Preservation of Golden Crescent and 1000 Islands