PRESS-REPUBLICAN: Rally protests closure of Clinton Correctional Annex
January 9, 2021, FERNANDO ALBA
DANNEMORA — More than 200 protesters against the announced closure of the Clinton Correctional Facility Annex by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration gathered across near the annex Saturday to show their opposition to its slated closure.
The facility, which provides about 300 jobs, is set to close March 30.
‘WE WILL DO EVERYTHING WE CAN’
Many of the officials who spoke at the rally voiced the importance of keeping the jobs the annex provides in the North Country, including State Assemblyman Billy Jones, a former correction officer himself.
“These men and women work hard every day behind that wall to protect our community. We need to do everything we can to save the Clinton annex,” Jones said. “We will do everything we can to not lose one job in that facility and not to have people displaced. We cannot have people moving out of the community.”
Other elected officials who attended the event included Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville), State Assemblyman Matthew Simpson and State Senator Dan Stec, among others, joined protesters in Dannemora Saturday.
“We understand how critical these jobs are to our local community,” Stefanik said. “I was honored to be invited to be here today because we need to use our voices to speak out on behalf of not only our law enforcement families but on behalf of the North Country that too often gets forgotten by Democrats in Albany.”
Stec echoed Stefanik’s words when he spoke to the crowd.
“People forget the history. Why are these prisons here in the North Country? Because the North Country stepped up and took them when no other communities wanted them. These are small communities. Three hundred jobs more than moves the needle, it’s a devastating effect to a small community in the North Country,” Stec said. “The state has a poor history when it closes its facilities with not following through and making sure these facilities get redeveloped. They’re let go. They’re not used and become a blight to the community.”
Stefanik also criticized Cuomo’s timing of the facilities’ closures.
“We need to do everything we can to ensure that we keep these jobs here,” she said. “It is, frankly, cowardly, to have made that announcement without communicating with you directly but also right around the holidays as our economy spirals in the North Country.”
Stefanik’s approach to the mic Saturday was met by cheers, applause and some in the crowd thanking her for her objecting to Biden electors in four states after Congress reconvened in the early hours of Jan. 7 following a riot by Trump supporters in the U.S. Capitol building. Stefanik briefly addressed the riot to the crowd.
“I condemn the violence that we saw from actors who destroyed and committed criminal acts. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said. “I stand by the constitutional liberties and freedoms of peaceful protests and standing up for the viewpoints and constitutional liberties of our district.”
New York also plans to close two additional prisons, Watertown and Gowanda Correctional Facilities, to save about $89 million per year as the state’s inmate population declines. Almost all employees affected by the closures will be offered relocations, New York corrections officials said.
The concern for many protestors in Dannemora Saturday was how the closing of the annex could lead to more closures that could further affect the North Country..
For Virgina Davey, a member of Saturday’s crowd, the timing couldn’t be worse for families who could face disruptions during a pandemic. Davey also expressed concern for the employees’ health and safety as some of them would be moved to the prison, which would increase its concentration of people.
“We’re supposed to be social distancing. We’re supposed to be spread out, but this will increase density,” she said.
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