It Was Jobs All Along

Crime was always an easy campaign platform for some politicians. After all, crimes do get committed, many of them horrific. When politicians can identify themselves as crime-fighting heroes, even after the fact, it’s a plus to their personae. Thus have we had a spate of laws named after people who died tragically. In one sense, laws so named honor the memory of the victims. In another sense, they promote the image of those who sponsor them. 

New York became tougher on crime as crime rates fluctuated over the decades. Time served became lengthier. Paroles became scarcer. The prison population ballooned. And the number of prisons grew to meet, and now exceed, the prison population.

Crime has been dropping in New York State for the past decade. This has created a situation where there is more prison space than prisoners. So Governor Spitzer has proposed the sensible approach:

Citing declining inmate population due to sentencing alternatives and other changes, Gov. Eliot Spitzer on Friday said next year he will close one medium security prison, three low-security “camps,” and six centers for troubled youths — although some of those will be merged…

The prison closures are projected to save at least $10.4 million next budget year, with that rising to $33.5 million the following year.

Not everyone is happy.

Lawmakers, though, noted almost all the closures were in Republican Senate and Assembly districts.

“It could be a coincidence but I don’t believe in coincidences,” said Sen. Tom Libous, R-Binghamton, whose district includes Camp Pharsalia in Chenango County, among those slated for closure.

Yeah, but —

DOCS spokesman Erik Kriss said there is “no evil scheme,” noting most of the camps are in rural areas, which are typically represented by Republicans.

Nevertheless —

With prisons and their well-paying jobs serving as important economic engines in some upstate communities, several Republicans, including Assemblyman Roy McDonald of Wilton, whose district includes Camp McGregor, and Sen. Betty Little of Queensbury, whose district includes Camp Gabriels in Franklin County, suggested they would fight the closures.

What does it say when a segment of the economy requires a population of human beings in chains in order to maintain its economic viability? Not pretty things. I’m sure.

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