Families, communities disrupted by Pharsalia closure

PHARSALIA – Closing Camp Pharsalia isn’t just taking 105 jobs out of the area, it’s disrupting 105 families and the communities they live in, says one corrections officer at the minimum security prison.

“Nobody wants to see it closed,” said Paul Lashway, a veteran corrections officer of 18 years and the camp’s union steward. “This is our home.”

The state Department of Correctional Services announced Friday that it’s planning to shut down Camp Pharsalia, along with Camp Gabriels in Franklin County, Camp McGregor in Saratoga County, and Hudson Correctional Facility in Columbia County in January 2009. The move is said to free-up expenses for advanced sex offender and mental illness treatment programs mandated by the state Legislature that will cost upward of $70 million.

The officers and civilian staff at Pharsalia are assured jobs at other prisons in Cayuga and Oneida counties, state and union officials say. But Lashway said for many, the shift to another facility an hour or more away will take its biggest toll on their family lives.

“Does it disrupt the family?” Lashway said from his home Monday night. “Sure it does.”

Lashway expects he’ll have to miss a lot of his son’s football games and other events and says the move will put added pressures on his wife. He says many at the camp will likely face similar challenges.

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