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Officials band together to save Oneida County state prisons

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Officials band together to save Oneida County state prisons
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UTICA, N.Y. -- Thirty-seven hundred prison beds have to go and facilities will have to close. That's the word from Governor Andrew Cuomo as the state continues to try to cut expenses.

"He's also indicated, and his administration, that they would interact with the legislature, which has not happened at this point, but I'm not saying it won't, and that's why we're going to take advantage of that opportunity," said State Senator Joseph Griffo.

Elected officials, including Sen. Griffo, say they're joining forces to make sure none of Oneida County's four state prisons are among those that close. They plan to put together a report on why the Marcy, Mid-State, Oneida, and Mohawk Correctional Facilities should remain open, touching on areas including economic impact.

"If there's consolidation and 300 or 400 or 500 corrections officers have to go to another part of the state, that's a loss to us, too," said Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente.

Although there are four state prisons within Oneida County, officials say that's no reason to target facilities in the area, especially given that of the nearly 5,000 available inmate beds, just over 800 of them are vacant.

Officials say the facilities are also critical to the entire state. They're home to the system's low-cost food operations, automated central pharmacy, and long term care medical unit.

The medium-security prisons could also help pick up the slack if the state decides to close a maximum-security facility.

"Maybe some of them aren't really maximum security anymore and they've moved down to a level where they could end up here. You know, we're hoping, actually, to be on the positive end and move maybe more prisoners this way," said Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney.

The group plans to act fast -- they hope to share their findings with Cuomo's administration within the next month.

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