North Country lawmakers react to closing of Ogdensburg Correctional Facility


Senator Patty Ritchie at Watertown Correctional Facility closing rally (WWTI/Isabella Colello)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Another state-run correctional facility will close its doors in 2022.

On November 8, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision announced that six New York prisons will close on March 10, 2022. This includes the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility.

Following this announcement, several lawmakers in the North Country responded, protesting the closure. This includes Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-NY, State Senator Patty Ritchie and Assemblyman Mark Walczyk.

Rep. Stefanik referred to the closure of the Watertown Correctional Facility back in March 2021 in her statement, claiming that another prison closure will impact North Country families.

“New York Democrats, led by Kathy Hochul, have continued to undermine our law enforcement and make our communities less safe. Our brave Correctional Officers still put their lives on the line daily, even as crime across New York and violence in prisons have skyrocketed under failed Far-Left Democrat leadership. Now, Governor Hochul continues to undermine the rule of law by closing North Country prisons, which will devastate our region. Targeting multiple North Country prisons is an attack on the hardworking residents of the North Country. Nearly 300 Correctional officers and their families will be displaced. This decision is just one more example of Governor Hochul lurching to the left and completely punishing upstate New York. Governor Hochul must reverse course. New Yorkers deserve better.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY)

Sen. Ritchie also addressed Governor Kathy Hochul directly and requested additional information on the status of the Watertown Correctional Facility.

Instead of taking a hard look at how yet another prison closure and the loss of hundreds of jobs will affect our region, she has fallen lockstep with the downstate Democrats and their agenda that puts criminals before the rights and safety of law abiding New Yorkers. People in the North Country did not ask for things like bail reform and other changes that have caused prison populations to decrease and crime rates to skyrocket. Yet once again, Albany is taking it out on us.

It seems like just yesterday that the previous administration announced Watertown Correctional Facility would be closing. Today, it still sits empty, with no concrete plans for its repurposing. I ask the Governor—what is the plan for Watertown Correctional Facility? What will the plan be for Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, which as many know, is in the midst of a major, nearly $10 million capital project slated to be completed in January? To many, it would only seem logical to have a plan for these facilities before they close, so they do not end up as vacant, eyesores in the communities where they exist. As I have come to find though, most decisions made by Albany bureaucrats are far from logical.

To say I am deeply disappointed and angered by today’s announcement would be an understatement. 

Sen. Patty Ritchie

In his statement, Walczyk criticized the DOCCS for having no plan for the closure. He considered the closure of the Ogdensburg Facility “devastating.”

During the budget hearings earlier this year, I made it clear to the Commissioner of DOCCS that you don’t announce the closure of a State prison and then figure out what to do with the building later.  Closing a prison with no plan is lazy, it’s not fair for the hardworking staff, and devastating to a host community like Ogdensburg.  It’s also pretty terrible for the taxpayer, too.

The move to close the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility proves to me the Commissioner and the Governor didn’t listen.  The St. Lawrence County economy relies on the more than 250 jobs associated with this facility.  State leaders in Albany didn’t plan accordingly and instead, they have torpedoed the upstate economy.

I’m calling on Governor Hochul to exercise some transparency, listen to reason, and develop a closure plan that’s logistically sound and fair to all concerned.  I stand side-by-side with our region’s brave COs and staff.    

Additionally, everything she’s done so far has shown Governor Hochul cares more about the comfortable lifestyle of convicted, violent felons than she does about Corrections Officers, Law Enforcement, taxpayers, or safety on our streets.” 

Assemblyman Mark Walczyk

The Ogdensburg Correctional Facility currently staffs 268 employees and houses 158 incarcerated individuals. The DOCCS plans on working with bargaining units to provide staff from the facilities with priority placement via voluntary transfers and priority employment at other facilities or other state agencies. The Department said in a statement that they do not anticipate any layoffs will take place due to the closures.

Additional facilities that are set to close in 2022 include Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility, Willard Drug Treatment Campus, Southport Correctional Facility, Downstate Correctional Facility and Rochester Correctional Facility.

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