New York officials on Monday announced plans to close six state prisons early next year, one of the largest such closings by the state as its prisoner population continues to decline.
With the closings, Gov. Kathy Hochul is following the lead of her predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo, who shut 18 prisons during his nearly 11 years in office amid a series of criminal justice reforms that reduced New York’s prison population to its lowest level since 1984.
Prison closings have typically been contentious in New York because the facilities are major employers in the upstate communities where many of them have shut down, even as criminal justice reform advocates view the moves as the fruits of long-running efforts to end mass incarceration.
But the closings announced on Monday coincide with a heated political debate over the effect of left-leaning measures on public safety, with New York’s Democrats still reeling from their losses in elections across the state last week.
Republicans were quick to attack Ms. Hochul, a Democrat from the Buffalo area, over the decision, portraying it as an affront to prison officers, and seeking to tie the closings to measures like changes to the state’s bail laws that have been used as a cudgel against Democrats.
“Closing prisons is an idea that might appeal to liberal voters in a primary, but it’s of no benefit to upstate communities and represents yet another step backward on public safety,” said Will Barclay, the Republican minority leader in the State Assembly.
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