As the federal government increases spending, state and local governments cut back. In New York, that means Camp Pharsalia, a minimum security prison near Norwich may close. The prison and other prison camps, according to the Washington Post’s Keith Richburg, “have become something of an economic lifeline, for decades providing not just manpower, but also jobs, in a region where work is hard to come by. But with most governors and legislatures grappling with crushing budget deficits, what’s good for rural economies is often proving bad for states.”
New York is facing a $13 billion deficit and the state has fewer inmates. So Gov. David Patterson has proposed shutting four prisons, including two near Norwich. That would save $26 million. The Post reports this phenomenon is playing out across the country, as prisons built in rural areas in the ’80s and ’90s, during the farm crisis, are now being closed. For Norwich, that would mean the loss of 59 jobs; moreover, 40 local businesses have contracts with the prison.
Norwich Evening Sun reporter Melissa Stagnaro writes that state cuts paint “a somewhat dismal picture of what the future could bring for our upstate communities. A slow degradation of our education system, a decline in health care, sky high unemployment and overburdened public assistance…We can’t just sit back and let this happen.”