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Area officials respond to Cuomo's tough talk on prisons

"We all know that three-quarters of the people in the prisons up here come from downstate," she said. "It's really troubling because a lot of our CO's have roots here in the North Country and if the only jobs are moved downstate there will be a lot of disruptions in family life that not a lot of us want to think about."

The push to begin closing a number of the 18 North Country prisons accelerated over the last two years of Democratic rule in the state Senate.

Sayward said the lack of specifics surrounding Cuomo's planned restructuring of government creates a cloud of mystery around the potential prison battle.

"I don't know how he's going to restructure. Is he going to look differently at lifers than he does at youth or people that need to be integrated back into society," he said. "He really didn't leave us with much other than his hard and fast, 'we're not going to put people in prison just to create jobs.'"

The largest employer in Moriah, the shock camp is the economic lifeblood of the community. It directly provides over 100 jobs and pumps millions of dollars into the community's gas stations and restaurants.

During last year's battle for Moriah, local Supervisor Tom Scozzafava, Essex County Chairman Randy Douglas and county Manager Dan Palmer undertook a full scale assault on Albany - knocking on the doors of legislative leaders from both parties.

Douglas's Democratic ties allowed him access to the office of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Both Sayward and Scozzafava argue that shock treatment throughout the state has received greater emphasis because of recent changes to the long-controversial Rockefeller drug laws.

"I think we can prove our point once again. Our argument was, 'if you're going to close prisons, don't just do it in the North Country,'" he said. "Our economy is absolutely dependent on them and it's not by our choosing. Because we live in the Adirondack Park jobs in the private sector are very limited."

MacEntee said the recent closures of prisons at Camp Gabriels and Lyon Mountain have already taken a toll on the region.

"It's a big stone being thrown into a small pond and the ripple is real," MacEntee said.

The state's recent attempts to sell the facility have failed and the region's officials argue they are destined to remain vacant because of the relative lack of infrastructure and unique land-use restrictions within the blue line.

The draft executive state budget is expected to be released in three weeks.

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