By Tom Scozzafava
As supervisor of the town of Moriah for over three decades, I couldn’t believe when I heard that Moriah Shock Incarceration Facility would be closing.
I appreciate and understand the fact that the inmate population in New York has declined, and that it would be fiscally prudent to close prisons that are no longer needed. However, Moriah Shock is a far cry from your standard prison.
I worked at Moriah Shock for four years in the late 1990s as an electrician and know the program. I witnessed firsthand how it changed thousands of men’s lives for the better.
In 2010, Moriah Shock was on the hit list to close, but after some state senators and Assembly members learned about the program and visited the facility, it was decided to keep it open. Then-Sen. Ruth Thompson of Mount Vernon decided to tour the facility at the request of our then-Sen. Betty Little of Queensbury. I also was included in that visit, and Thompson was so impressed with the program that she helped convince Gov. David Paterson to put Moriah Shock back in the budget.
I was supervisor when Moriah Shock opened, and lobbied for a correctional facility in our community to help our economically depressed area. Gov. Mario Cuomo was convinced that Moriah, in the heart of the Adirondack Park, would make a good location.
The economic impact that this facility has had on our area has been tremendous, but this is about the program in itself.
Thousands of men have turned their lives around because of Moriah Shock and the staff that has worked with them through the years. Instead of spending three months in a real prison, a six-month sentence at Moriah Shock includes alcohol and substance abuse treatment, school every day toward a high school equivalency diploma, and development of a strong work ethic, self-discipline and accountability for one’s actions.
Hundreds of letters regarding Moriah Shock have been sent to Gov. Kathy Hochul, many from former and current inmates, asking that she reconsider her position on this closure.
Our community is the sixth most populated in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park, and Moriah is defined by Moriah Shock in a positive way.
Please take the time to research this facility and watch “Jail Without Walls” on YouTube; you will see that this program and facility should not be called a “prison” but a place where young men can once again gain some hope and return to a productive life. Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci has attested to the success of this program, and the millions it has saved taxpayers through the years.
Yes, Moriah needs this facility to remain open, as do hundreds of men who also may need this program in the future.
To ship inmates across New York to Lakeview, a prison with barbed wire fencing and a concrete jungle, when you have Moriah Shock just up the road in one of the most beautiful settings in the state is, in my opinion, a mistake.
We need Hochul to reconsider this closure, and I ask that with the greatest of respect for her and with understanding of the position she is in.
Tom Scozzafava is the town supervisor of Moriah. This first appeared in the (Albany) Times Union and is reprinted by permission.