RAY BROOK - North Country Congressman Bill Owens dropped by a federal prison here last month to tour the facility and talk to its operators.
The Plattsburgh Democrat said he was invited to the Federal Correctional Institution in Ray Brook by its management and staff for a short visit on July 27. He said they talked about things like day-to-day operations, the number of prisoners and the prison's economic impact on the local community.
"We spoke abut the work program, where prisoners are involved in making items that are sold to the government, and the impact that has on the prisoners' ability to get back into the community with skills," Owens told the Enterprise. "We were inside, walking among the prisoners, saw them work, eat and recreate."
Rep. Bill Owens
(Enterprise file photo)
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has advocated for more staffing at federal prisons in recent years. He visited FCI Ray Brook in 2009, when the prison population was several hundred inmates over its maximum capacity. At the time, it had 214 employees, or about 10 percent less than what was considered optimal number for its capacity.
The prison's current population is 1,189 and it has 246 employees. Owens said the prison does have some overcrowding now, but he "didn't get the impression that it was severe.
"I didn't get the impression from the prison population that it was disquieting," he said. "I told them, if they had issues, to get in touch with my office.
"I want to be sure we protect the officers that work in the facility," Owens added. "We don't want to create an environment that in any way endangers those officers."
Prison officials didn't make any formal requests for legislative action, Owens said, although they did talk about funding for capital improvements.
"They had issues with their roof and issues with their power supply," he said. "They also had some concerns about the cost of oil. They wanted to talk about renewable energies in that facility that might help drive down costs."
Donald Hudson took over as warden of FCI Ray Brook late last month, replacing Russell Perdue as the prison's 13th warden in its 32-year history. The medium-security facility was originally built to house athletes for the 1980 Winter Olympics.