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Auburn Correctional Facility

Auburn Correctional Facility

State lawmakers don't support Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to expedite the closure of up to three state prisons this year. 

One-house budget plans released by the Assembly and state Senate majorities excludes Cuomo's proposal. The governor is seeking authority from the state Legislature to close as many as three correctional facilities by Sept. 1. 

Michael Whyland, a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, confirmed Cuomo's plan isn't included in the chamber's budget bills. The state Senate's budget resolution, which was released Tuesday afternoon, also doesn't contain the proposal. 

In the one-house resolution, the state Senate expressed support for reducing the prison population and "justifiable" correctional facility closures. 

"However, the Senate believes that meaningful advance notice of and justification for specifically identified prison closures is essential to thoughtful planning of such closures and for constructive reuse of facilities," the resolution reads. 

In his 30-day budget amendments, Cuomo included the proposal to shutter up to three state prisons. His plan would require the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to review the state's 54 correctional facilities and determine which should close. There would be criteria the agency would consider, such as facility security level, available programs for inmates and the potential reuse of the property. 

Cuomo, who has boasted about closing 24 state prisons and juvenile detention centers, contends more prisons can be shuttered due to a declining inmate population. The inmate population is now 46,973, down from 56,419 since 2011 — the governor's first year in office. 

The state Division of Budget estimates the closures could eliminate more than 1,200 beds in the prison system and save at least $35 million. 

"These new closures are another step toward reversing the era of mass incarceration and recognizing that there are more effective alternatives to lengthy imprisonment," Cuomo said in February. 

However, Cuomo's plan faces opposition from lawmakers and unions representing correctional officers. One of the unions, the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, slammed the proposal. The labor group believes it would lead to overcrowding in prisons and create dangerous conditions for staff. 

While state legislators share those concerns, they also worry that any closures could be harmful to communities. Cayuga County is home to two state prisons, both of which are among the largest employers in the county. 

Cuomo still could secure the prison closure plan in the state budget, but he would have to win support of Assembly Democrats. It's unclear where the state Senate Democrats stand on the proposal. The state Senate hasn't released its one-house budget plan. 

The governor and state legislative leaders are aiming to finalize a new state budget by March 31. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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