Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York took on one of the state's most
powerful special-interest groups when he proposed a commission to
determine which of the state's expensive and underused prisons should
be closed. He is in for a tough battle, but it is well worth fighting.
Even a modest closings program like the one proposed by Gov. George
Pataki could have saved the state nearly $75 million in the first
three years, freeing up money for schools, health care and mass
transit. But Mr. Pataki was blocked by the powerful correction
officers' union and by state lawmakers who reap campaign contributions
from the union and early do its bidding.
We need a smart political leader like Gov. Eliot Spitzer to correct
the waste of scarce tax dollars spent on maintaining half-empty institutions.
These prisons have become cash cows for the correction officers'
union and political leaders in rural upstate communities that house
Governor Spitzer is clearly looking at the economic waste generated
by the archaic prison-industrial complex. His efforts to substitute a
smarter economic approach should be applauded and given time to bear fruit.
Governor Spitzer's policy will lead to a better functioning criminal
justice system that will be more cost-efficient for the people of New York.
The writer is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.