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CSEA starts drive to keep Mt. McGregor open

Monday, September 16, 2013
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— The state’s largest labor union has begun a campaign to prevent the planned closure of a medium-security prison facility in Wilton.

It was announced this summer by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision that Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility was one of four facilities that would be closed in July 2014 as the result of the state’s declining prison population. With more than 10 months before the closure goes into effect, Civil Service Employees Association is trying to rally public support for keeping the prison open.

There are about 100 CSEA employees at the prison, according to CSEA spokeswoman Therese Assalian. They fill civilian jobs that include maintenance, cooking and steam-plant operation.

She said the union has launched a community awareness campaign to help members of the public understand what could be lost with the prison closing. Assalian noted there are services provided to the public, such as giving out wood to seniors for heating, which would end next summer.

The effort has included having members write letters to local newspapers.

At this point, she said, television and radio campaigns are being discussed. “Nothing has been ruled out at this point,” she said.

The campaign also is targeting state politicians who could play a role in preserving the prison through the budget process. “We have gone down this road before,” said Assalian.

When Camp McGregor, the 300-bed minimum security portion of Mt. McGregor, was closed in the summer of 2009, she said that politicians were actively working to prevent the closure.

Josh Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, said his boss was trying to harness public support to keep McGregor and the other three correctional facilities open.

“Senator Marchione is committed ... to do whatever it takes — rallies, petitions, legislation, public pressure — to keep this facility open,” he said. “Trying to balance New York’s chronic budget deficit on the backs of hard-working corrections officers — and upstate’s economy — is bad public policy and even worse public safety.” The state has estimated the four closures will save $30 million annually.

Because the state Legislature has a say in the budget process, Assalian said they’re hopeful that one or two correctional facilities might get spared.

In anticipation of the closure happening, the CSEA has taken steps to educate members about their options, which include moving to new facilities.

The closure plan has been touted as one that won’t require any layoffs, but that is only if people are willing to uproot their family and potentially move across the state for a new job. The prospect of starting over is unsettling to some members, said Assalian.

According to the state, Mt. McGregor employs 320 people and has an inmate population of about 450.

 
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