The Sullivan Annex, a minimum-security state prison perched on a slope above a fishing creek here in the foothills of upstate New York, is an unlikely political battleground.
A perimeter fence with no barbed wire surrounds the tree-lined complex, which holds two single-story brick dormitories. Inmates in dark-green garb, most convicted of minor offenses, frequently leave the grounds to paint, pick up litter and do other jobs in this rural community about two hours north of Manhattan. A swing set on a spacious patch of grass keeps inmates' children busy when they visit.
Despite the serene appearance—a stark contrast to the barbed-wire-enclosed maximum-security prison just up the road—the Sullivan Annex is at the center of a pitched struggle between state officials on one hand and the powerful New York correctional officers' union and local leaders on the other.
Hammered by the recession and trying to squeeze money out of every state agency, New York is closing the Sullivan Annex and nine other minimum- and medium-security prison facilities by Oct. 1 to save an estimated $52 million over two years.
Read the full report Tracking the Recession: Prison Economics on Stateline.org.