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Consolidated inmate units to save cash for the state

Twenty underpopulated inmate housing units at 17 prisons in New York State will be temporarily consolidated in response to a population decline of almost 20 percent in the past decade.

The moves, expected to be completed within the next couple of weeks, will allow the state Department of Correctional Services to shut down 22 housing units and leave 149 corrections officer positions temporarily unfilled. Officers assigned to the vacated units will be reassigned to vacant posts elsewhere in their current facility.

The moves are expected to result in taxpayer savings of $8.4 million, along with a savings in overtime expenses.

"This is recognition by the commissioner that the inmate population continues to decline to the point where it only makes sense to consolidate the system, save money on behalf of state taxpayers, and do so without anybody losing a job or having to transfer," said spokesman Erik Kriss.

In Western New York, the underused 110-bed protective custody unit at the men's medium-security Collins Correctional Facility in Collins will be closed, with the remaining 20 inmates transferred to other protective custody units. The Collins unit is currently housed in a gymnasium, which will be returned to use as a gym. The move will allow 26 staff positions to remain temporarily unfilled.

Also, a housing unit with 60 beds will be vacated at Wyoming Correctional Facility, leaving five staff positions unfilled.

Correctional facilities in Albion, Franklin, Oneida and Watertown will each have about 10 staff positions remaining unfilled.

The inmate population in New York State declined by 2,250 in the last year alone, with an additional decline of 1,000 projected in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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