STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. New York Governor David Paterson unveiled a new plan yesterday to cut his state's $15 billion budget deficit. Part of the plan includes closing some state prisons and cutting more than 1,300 prison jobs. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports.

BRIAN MANN: Prison jobs were once seen as recession-proof, but over the last 12 years the number of men and women behind bars in New York state dropped by a third, thanks to plummeting crime rates. Some prisons have been operating at half capacity. On Tuesday, Governor Paterson said the price tag for that kind of inefficiency is just too high.

Governor DAVID PATERSON (Democrat, New York): Unfortunately, we have lived beyond our means. We've made too many promises and, unfortunately, have asked for too few sacrifices.

MANN: Prison jobs have been a lifeline for New York's sagging upstate economy for decades. Jeff Branch, a cook at a prison near Saranac Lake, says layoffs would send shockwaves through his community.

Mr. JEFF BRANCH (Cook, Camp Gabriels): You know, they're going to lose their jobs. They're going to stop spending money. It's really vast and could be very devastating for the area.

MANN: If New York's Legislature approves the plan, a dozen inmate-run farms will close, along with four prison camps, saving more than $100 million over the next two years. Donn Rowe, who heads NYSCOPBA, the prison guard union, says jobs and programs have already been cut inside many prisons. Rowe says this proposal would lead to unsafe inmate crowding.

Mr. DONN ROWE (President, NYSCOPBA): We in the department of corrections, and namely the security, have felt this pain already. We've already undergone two consolidation plans within the last three months.

MANN: But Bob Gangi, with a prisoner advocacy group called the Correctional Association of New York State, says the cuts are long overdue.

Mr. BOB GANGI (Executive Director, Correctional Association of New York): The prison population has declined and the state has yet to close a facility. And we have the opportunity of saving money during a time of serious fiscal crisis for the state.

MANN: Governor Paterson also wants more parole and early release programs that could shrink the inmate population even more. For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in Saranac Lake, New York.

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