WATERTOWN — About 100 people joined together outside the Watertown Correctional Facility to send a message to the governor on Monday afternoon to reverse his decision to close the prison.
In a news conference in front of the correctional facility, State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie joined local leaders, prison employees and their family members to ask Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo not to close the prison in the town of Watertown.
Last month — just four days before Christmas — the state announced that Watertown Correctional Facility would be one of three state prisons closing on March 31. Other facilities slated for closure include Gowanda Correctional Facility in Erie County and the Clinton Correctional Facility Annex in Dannemora.
At their meeting on Monday night, City Council members also made it known that they oppose the closing of the correctional facility.
While the facility is actually in the town of Watertown, council members said it directly impacts people who work there and live in the city. The closing will mean about 400 people will lose their jobs.
Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said it’s a kind of decision that the state makes that causes people to move out of New York.
“I think they need to hear from everybody on this,” Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo said.
Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero said the closing will disrupt people’s lives.
Sen. Ritchie said correctional facility employees have put their health at risk while doing their jobs during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now is not the time to be closing prisons — especially those like Watertown Correctional Facility, which are well-run and filled with hardworking people,” Sen. Ritchie said.
She was joined at the news conference by Assemblyman Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown; Michael B. Powers, New York State Correctional Officers Police Benevolent Association president; Brian Hluska, NYSCOPBA vice president; and a number of local leaders.
Correctional facility employees and their families carried signs that read, “Keep the Watertown Correctional Facility open,” “Don’t send my daddy on the road,” and “It’s politics Don’t Close Our Prison Do the Math.”
During the press conference, Sen. Ritchie and those who spoke pointed to a number of reasons for keeping Watertown Correctional Facility open, including its reliable workforce, low number of violent incidents and recent infrastructure upgrades, among others.