OGDENSBURG — For the last several weeks since the news that Ogdensburg Correctional Facility is slated to close, state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, has received phone calls and letters from people concerned with the state’s decision.
Some of the letters even have a familiar address — 1 Correction Way, Ogdensburg — the address of the medium-security prison set to close its doors in March.
“Since the Governor announced the closure of Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, my office has heard from countless people who are advocating for it to remain open and that includes those who are incarcerated,” Sen. Ritchie said.
She says that the letters from inmates were unexpected, but it shows how the prison is run effectively and how the inmates are treated by staff, making a case for it to stay open.
“These individuals have written letters saying the facility makes them feel safe, that they’re treated fairly by staff and that they’ve been given opportunities to learn important skills they can use upon their release,” she said. “It is rare to hear the incarcerated advocating for a facility to remain open.”
One inmate wrote that although the prison is small with a small population, staff members care about the inmates and show them respect.
“They care about a inmate and they don’t treat you like a inmate. The staff here understands maybe you have made mistakes in the past but if you learn from your mistakes is what counts. Then maybe you can better yourself while you are in here and when you leave,” the inmate wrote. “Once I get release and I drive by this place I will always remember how good the staff here treated me and my family while I was here. Would you please consider trying to help us to help change the State of New York in not letting them close this prison? I have been in other prisons I have never been in a prison like this one. This is in a good way. The staff runs this prison like no other prison in New York State. They give respect to inmate and they receive respect.”
Another inmate wrote that he thinks OCF is one of the safer prisons in Northern New York — due to the professionalism of the staff.
“I attribute this facility’s safety to the professionalism of the correctional officers here and respectfully urge you not to close a facility as safe as this one,” the inmate wrote. “It is very much needed.”
A handwritten letter stated that an inmate who had been at OCF since 2018 noted the prison’s professionalism, as well as safety and security aspects. He also learned some skills while incarcerated.
“I’ve worked and volunteered in several projects and learned several skills such as gardening, maintenance, landscaping, etc. throughout my stay here,” the inmate wrote.
A 62-year-old inmate recently transferred to OCF and wrote that staff treat them like “humans.”
“All staff here, officers and civilians treat us like humans and that I ask. It is of course still prison but I expect that. What I like most though is that there is very little non-sense that goes on in other facilities which I will no doubt wind up in now; the gangs and drugs and what have you,” he wrote. ”I have never had a legitimate problem that wasn’t looked into by the appropriate staff. I could go on and on but this is a very good place and to close it down would be a real waste. We all feel that way.”
Sen. Ritchie called the letters “powerful messages” and she has shared them with Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul’s office.
“I hope that she and other decision makers take the time to read them and seriously consider what these individuals have to say as they weigh the future of Ogdensburg Correctional Facility,” Sen. Ritchie said.