The governor announced at the end of July that four prisons would be closing, including one in Chateaugay. It is in response to a shrinking amount of drug offenders due to mandatory sentencing guidelines under the Rockefeller-era drug laws being relaxed. The closures are expected to save the state $30 million dollars.
While saving the state money is a good thing, it's not so good for the North Country. Jobs will be lost, the local economy will suffer, and abandoned real estate will deteriorate all while drug problems spread. We suffered the loss when the state closed Camp Gabriel in 2009, and it still hasn't found a use for the property.
Unemployment nationwide has fallen to 7.4 percent, which is something the North Country has never experienced. In January 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Franklin County unemployment was at 11.9 percent and Essex County was at 12.1 percent. Combine living in the Adirondack Park with lack of growth and opportunity for employment, and closing facilities might result in more of a burden to the state than a savings.
While the number of people incarcerated for drugs is shrinking, it doesn't mean the problem of drugs is. On the contrary, small communities all over are seeing methamphetamine use increase. Addiction is a serious problem, and closing prisons is just shuffling the problem around like the mobile meth lab in "Breaking Bad." Instead, why not incorporate a transitional rehabilitation period included in their prison term with education and job training? Education and rehabilitation for prisoners has proven to lower the recidivism rate in other countries. Keeping our prisons open to include this would be an investment, not an expense, in the long term.
Let's save our communities from drug addiction, unemployment and a sinking economy by convincing the governor and state Legislature to leave the facilities in the North Country off the list of closures.