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Talk of prison closures worry small towns.

Across the country, declining state budgets have sparked conversations about closing prisons, reported The Washington Post. These conversations are especially contentious in smaller, rural towns, where prisons often make up a large part of the economic base. New York Gov. David A. Paterson has proposed closing four of the state's prison facilities, including Camp Pharsalia in Norwich, a rural upstate community. If the city were

to lose its prison, Mayor Joseph P. Maiurano calculated that 59 correctional officers and their families would have to leave the area for jobs at other facilities; about 40 local businesses would lose procurement funds; and more than 50 local businesses would miss out on the work that the minimum-security inmates provide, including painting, roofing and cleaning up debris. For the city, the inmates also maintain horse and ski trails, work in the public parks, and thin the forests. The mayor estimates the city would need to hire four full-time employees to do the work inmates now do for free. "Where are we going to get another $100,000-plus," Maiurano asked. "We don't have the income--the growth isn't here."

The Post noted that despite rural communities' attachment to their prisons, some experts dispute the longterm economic benefit to communities. They say that free inmate labor eliminates low-paid manual jobs, which can further depress local economies--and that local prisons can make an area less attractive to other types of businesses. "On average, prisons don't do much of anything," said Gregory Hooks, a sociology professor at Washington State University. "If you look at the poorest counties, the impact is negative. If you put a prison in a struggling county, they get worse, not better."

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Title Annotation:News Briefs
Author:Gormsen, Lia
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2009
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