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Albany, N.Y. —  PEF President Wayne Spence issued the following statement on New York’s announcement that they will close the Watertown and Gowanda Correctional Facilities as well as the Clinton Annex, effective March 30, 2021:

“We are disappointed that Gov. Cuomo chose to close these three facilities at this time. We understand the fiscal crisis the state is facing, but there is also an ongoing health crisis within the walls of New York’s correctional facilities. Why crowd the system during a second wave of the coronavirus? The health and safety of all impacted needs to be considered. The rushed closure of these facilities and the transfer of incarcerated individuals and staff who may have been exposed to COVID-19 defies the advise of public health advocates and puts communities at risk.

In addition, the skilled PEF members currently employed at the Watertown Correctional Facility, the Gowanda Correctional Facility and the Clinton Annex provide the critical mental health, wellness, education and job training support necessary for incarcerated individuals to successfully reintegrate back into their communities. PEF supports reasonable, responsible and appropriate criminal justice reform that provides resources to create real avenues for oversight, rehabilitation and reintegration back into the community. We are concerned those avenues will be blocked for some individuals as a result of this shortsighted decision.

PEF will do everything within our power to make sure our members are protected during this process. The state does not anticipate any layoffs as a result, but we are concerned about job security and quality of life as workers transition to new assignments and we will fight to make sure our members see no reduction in their paychecks.

There is never a good time to learn your job is disappearing, but the end of this traumatic year is especially tough. Our hearts go out to PEF members now forced to make life-changing decisions. We are committed to helping them navigate the situation and continue their fulfilling careers with New York.”