Thursday rally questions Camp Pharsalia closure

NORWICH – Not everyone buys the reasoning behind Albany’s latest call to close Camp Pharsalia.

The state Department of Correctional Services claims it can save $8 million a year without the minimum security camp, a move that will help make room for expensive sex offender programs mandated by the Legislature.

Camp employees and union representatives, however, say the department jumped the gun Jan. 11 when it announced that Pharsalia, along with three other prisons, would likely be shut down the start of next year.

Specifically, Pharsalia guard Paul Lashway said state corrections hasn’t weighed the real impact of the closure on the local economy compared to the perceived benefits it will have on its budget.

“Maybe it does look good on a line item” in Albany, said Lashway, the camp’s union President. “But when you really look at it, it has a big impact here.”

As for reasons behind the closure – declining prison populations, higher costs and outdated uses for camps like Pharsalia – “We’re not buying that at all,” said Tom Haas, Central Region President of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, which represents the camp’s guards.

Thursday, union officials and state legislators are holding a community rally at 12:15 p.m. in the Summit Room on the 5th floor of The Eaton Center. They’ll be offering statistics about the camp’s importance to the county economically and announcing a plan to conduct a “comprehensive” Senate investigation into the state correctional system, looking at whether or not closures are necessary or potentially harmful. Members of the public are urged to attend.

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