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Area officials respond to Cuomo's tough talk on prisons

Governor Andrew Cuomo sent shivers up the spines of the region's local and state officials Wednesday when he railed against the long controversial upstate prison industry.

While delivering his first State of the State address, the freshly-elected Democrat gave a stark assessment of the use of prisons as job creators - especially in upstate New York.

"An incarceration program is not an employment program," he said. "If people need jobs, let's get people jobs. Don't put other people in prison to give some people jobs."

He couched the fiery comment in a discussion of youth correctional facilities.

But with recent skirmishes over the future of area prisons in Moriah, Ogdensburg and Dannemora, Cuomo's statement has local officials ready for yet another battle.

Cuomo's pointed statement directed squarely at the North Country wasn't missed by Dan MacEntee - a spokesman for state Senator Betty Little.

"It was really the only aspect of that speech that had any specific relevance to the North Country. Everything else was pretty much across the board," he said. "We're not going to know for a little while."

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward said Cuomo's prison remarks were the one negative in a speech that largely could have been delivered by a Republican.

"I think anything can happen. He's facing a $10 billion deficit that he says he's going to close without raising taxes or borrowing money," she said. "If he's going to do that, then we're all going to have to face some really tough decisions."

During last year's budget fight, the prison in Lyon Mountain was slated for closure. The Moriah Shock camp and the massive Ogdensburg Correctional Facility survived but may be facing closure yet again.

Sayward noted that bringing a largely downstate prison population closer to home has been on the wish-list of Democratic lawmakers for years - especially as inmate populations have continued to fall in recent years.

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