Monday, February 7, 2011

What Could It Be?

Whenever there's a suggestion that the Hudson Correctional Facility might close, people start thinking about a reuse for the late 19th-century buildings that comprise the prison. What is now the prison campus was originally constructed as the Women's House of Refuge, but after a decade or so, that institution closed, and the campus became the New York State Girls' Training School and remained so until the 1970s.

Since most people never get to see the prison buildings except to glimpse them from Route 9 or 9G during leaf-off season, Gossips is publishing these early photographs to assist in the visioning.

Something to consider when thinking about whether or not the Hudson Correctional Facility might be one of the prisons designated for closing: in March 2009, a year after an earlier decision to close the Hudson Correctional Facility was reversed by local and regional protest, a specialized "reentry unit"--one of only four in the state--was opened at the Hudson Correctional Facility. It's not clear if this makes HCF a less likely candidate for closing or not. 

1 comment:

  1. @ the posts and comments concerning the potential closure and re-use of the Hudson Correctional Facility:

    The bad news: Calculating the economic impacts of a particular prison on a particular community is a far more complex process than taking the state's per prisoner expenditure and multiplying that by the number of prisoners in a specific facility.

    The good news: There are sophisticated yet flexible economic impact models (IMPLAN, REMI, etc.) that could be used to get close to understanding what the actual economic impacts of the Hudson prison really are on Hudson and the surrounding community.

    The catch: The accuracy of these models is dependent on the quality of the data/information that is plugged into the model -- garbage in, garbage out so to speak.

    The key to ensuring a reasonably accurate analysis is the experience and independence of the people/organization conducting the analysis from local politics and special interests. That's not an easy bill to fill but it can be done. One example: highly-rated graduate school economics departments at non-local universities might be interested in conducting such an analysis as a supervised graduate student project in applied economics.

    Since there are many incorrect assumptions and claims made about prison economic impacts (benefits are typically greatly exaggerated and disadvantages ignored) it might be worthwhile for those interested in the potential re-use of Hudson Correctional Facility to try and make a prison economic impact study happen as soon as possible. These studies do not have to take a long time or cost a lot of money. The information from such a study could in the short run be useful to counteract the ignorance or exaggerations of those against closing the prison and helpful in the long run as a comparison against which re-use proposals could be evaluated.

    Two other quick thoughts for now:

    Concerning which entity in a prison community would get the up-to-$10 million for prison re-development, I wouldn't assume it would be either the city or the county. The Governor has proposed in his budget new regional economic development entities that could have at least initial control of these funds. These entities would have reps from local governments as well as local business and non-profit organizations and maybe even a few joe and jane citizens. They could be a way to avoid the usual pitfalls of economic development projects in upstate NY.

    On the question of who will be making the prison closure decisions:

    At the very least, the Governor's prison closing commission will be closely considering if not relying solely on data and information provided by the Department of Corrections and other state agencies. And, according to the language in the Gov's proposed budget, if the commission he appoints cannot or refuses to make the hard decisions, i.e. doesn't come up with a plan to eliminate 3500 prison beds, the Gov will step in and DOCS will immediately move to close prisons... according to a plan which I suspect already exists. After all, every Governor in office here for the last 15 years including Pataki has tried to close prisons so it doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that a lot of the homework has already been done on this. Hudson CF has already made it on the target list once so it's probably still there.

    Since the timeline on all this is short -- Cuomo's prison closing commission would have to make their recommendations within 30 days after the state budget is adopted -- I might imagine that a strong and well-informed citizens group committed to assisting in the hard work of re-use planning could make a very convincing argument for closing Hudson Correctional Facility and that argument could influence the outcome of decision-making on prisons.