WASHINGTON – Chautauqua County’s representative in Washington, DC took time out during a conference call with regional media on Tuesday to criticize lawmakers in the state capitol for pushing ‘extremist policies.’
Congressman Tom Reed (R-Corning, NY 23) took aim at state lawmakers in Albany for proposing legislation promoting Supervising Injection Facilities (SIFs) for people battling opioid addiction in five cities, along with supporting a plan to shutter two prisons this coming fall – one of which is located near his Southern Tier district.
Reed said that Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) last month introduced a introduced a new bill (A0060) that called for the creation of a pilot program of up to five supervised injection sites around the state. People addicted to drugs would be able to use at the sites under safe conditions in order to reduce the number of overdoses and related deaths that have become all-to-common in recent years due to the opioid epidemic.
Reed also went on the attack against the decision to close two state prisons due to low inmate populations, including the Livingston Correctional Facility – a medium security prison in Livingston County which employees nearly 400 employees and houses close to 900 inmates. The other prison is located in Harlem.
For now, it’s not clear if Rosenthal’s legislation will be able to pass both the State Assembly and State Senate and be signed by the Governor in time before the end of the legislative session next month. As for the two prions, state corrections officials have said the closures will eliminate approximately 1,200 vacant beds without impacting the safety and security of the 52 remaining facilities.
But the fact the injection site proposal is just that – a proposal – at this point, and the prions are being shuttered because of reduced inmate populations didn’t stop Reed from blasting both as being examples of ‘extremist policy’ from Democrats that control Albany.
“It shows us the danger of the radical left agenda that the Democratic Party in Albany is now controlled by,” Reed said. “To me this Democratic Party is no longer the party of your grandmother and grandfather. It has been taken over by that extreme wing and that loud, vocal minority that is forcing the Democratic Party to leave any resemblance of reasonable priorities.”
While Reed has attacked heroin injection sites in the past, including using the idea to target his opponent in the 2018 election (Democratic candidate Tracy Mitrano had said she would support a community’s right to choose whether to open an injection site or not because they “keep addicts alive for treatment and curb the spread of communicable disease”), this is the first time he’s been critical of the state for closing down prisons.
WRFA asked Reed why he equates shutting down a facility due to low inmate numbers, a decision based on simple economics, as being an example of an ‘extreme policy’ from the left.
“It would beg the question as to what you believe prisons are for,” he responded. “Obviously they are were bad people have to go to potentially be rehabilitated and also to serve their payment for justice that’s due for the victims of their crimes that they have engaged in. So the assessment that somehow we have excess capacity in our prison system that warrants the closure of these prisons is something that we’ll – we’ll double check those numbers. But I will tell you, closing those prisons to me is being done in a very – especially on a 90-days notice, is my understanding of what they are looking at here. And so I seriously question those numbers and whether or not this is the correct policy when it comes to closing prisons in our state.”
In Vermont, a state penal said it believes the state’s limited resources are better spent on proven treatment models and syringe service programs to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
The study from Australia does list dangers associated with SIFs, but the overall conclusion actually supports them rather than condemning them, stating, “It is difficult to accurately assess the benefits arising out of SIFs, as they have generally been instituted as part of a range of public health measures. There have been no reports of overdose deaths in any of the SIFs and data suggest that public drug use has declined in cities with these centres.”