Opinion: Ogdensburg deputy mayor asks governor to reconsider prison closure
To the Editor:
Dear Governor Hochul,Poverty is measured and defined in the United States by income and household size. For example, a family of four that has income at or below $26,500 is considered and defined as poor or in poverty. The poverty rate in St. Lawrence County is 18.9%, according to the latest US Census estimates. That means that almost one in every five people is St. Lawrence County lives at or below the poverty level. There are 62 counties in New York State. St. Lawrence County consistently ranks in the top 10 poorest counties in the State. Poverty is also measured in terms of the per capita income of persons in a region. In St. Lawrence County the per capita income is $25,378, according to the latest census estimates. In this category, the County is ranked number 59 out of all 62 counties in terms of the lowest incomes.
According to the New York State Financial Restructuring Board Comprehensive Review Report, the city has a “high proportion of households with public assistance (26.41%).”
Why wouldn’t that State consider the socio-economic conditions of a county or city when deciding to close a state facility that employs so many people in one of its poorest regions?
The proposed closure of the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility in Ogdensburg will result in the staggering loss of over 268 jobs (I think the facility once employed over 500) in a county and city that have some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the entire State of New York.
Are there other prisons in other counties or cities that do not suffer from chronic unemployment and poverty rates that could be closed instead of Ogdensburg? Are there other areas that can rebound from such a devastating loss of jobs and payroll where people can find alternative job opportunities in the private sector?
Is it the State’s policy to create more poverty and unemployment in a region that already tops most of the State in these categories? Apparently, this is the new State policy. Nearly one-third of children in St. Lawrence County live in poverty according to a report from the state Community Action Association. St. Lawrence County is the seventh most impoverished county in New York with more than 29% of kids living below the poverty line, according to that 2019 annual report.
It’s not too late to change the State’s policy. Please reconsider your decision to close Ogdensburg Correctional Facility.
John A. Rishe, Deputy Mayor
City of Ogdensburg