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A Prison Closes in Upstate New York, but Employees Continue to Show Up and Get Paid

by Joe Watson

Who does a doctor care for, or a teacher teach, at a prison without prisoners? What do employees do to earn a paycheck when the prison closes and the prisoners are gone? For at least several months in 2014, apparently all anyone had to do to get paid at the Mount McGregor State Prison in upstate New York was show up.

Mount McGregor transferred the last of its prisoners to other facilities around the state in April 2014 after the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) announced the closing of the prison.

The announcement prompted reporters at WNYT-News Channel 13 to call DOCCS and inquire about the costs of closing a state prison. But according to WNYT, nobody from DOCCS responded to any of their questions until five months later.

WNYT reports that Mount McGregor employees—including a doctor, a dental hygienist, a senior radiological technician, an education supervisor and a teacher—were still on the payroll and reported to work at the prison "for months after the inmates were gone."

In mid-September, only after all of the prison's employees were officially ex-employees, DOCCS finally responded—albeit abruptly—to WNYT's inquiries. The only thing DOCCS provided, according to WNYT, were payroll records showing that 65 employees were paid $1.26 million during at least part of the time when the prison was empty.

DOCCS also said that "corrections law" requires one year's notice to prison employees and unions before a prison is closed, and that employees who showed up to work at the empty prison were "participating in the decommissioning process."

DOCCS, meanwhile, might get acquainted with the accountability process.