Nonprofit’s future seen as uncertain

Clifford Seguin Jr. has been a cook at Mount McGregor state prison for more than 23 years.
Cliff Seguin, chairman of Operation Adopt a Soldier, places items in packages to be shipped overseas to U.S. troops.
Cliff Seguin, chairman of Operation Adopt a Soldier, places items in packages to be shipped overseas to U.S. troops.

Clifford Seguin Jr. has been a cook at Mount McGregor state prison for more than 23 years.

But his position is being eliminated next January as part of the state’s plan to close Mount McGregor’s 300-bed “camp” section, along with two other similar minimum-security prison camps in the state.

“I only have three years left until I retire,” Seguin said. “All I ask is that they take [his head cook position] by attrition.”

Seguin, 58, is also the founder and chairman of Operation Adopt a Soldier Inc., an all-volunteer nonprofit organization based in Wilton that provides hundreds of care packages every week to soldiers in Iraq.

If Seguin has to relocate to another distant state prison to keep working, he said, he will have to “close the door” on the highly successful troop support program.

The state Department of Correctional Services assures people whose jobs are being eliminated because of the camp closures that they will be placed in similar jobs at other prisons.

But Seguin said the closest correctional facility with a head cook position open is Midstate, which is located about 200 miles west and south of his current home.

“It’s a really, really sad situation,” Seguin said.

“I don’t want to go. Mount McGregor is my home,” Seguin said.

He said he and his wife are worried they will have to sell their house and move across the state.

“But my biggest concern, if I have to transfer out, is about Operation Adopt A Soldier,” he said.

Seguin started the organization in 2003 when his son was stationed in Iraq. His son has returned from the combat zone, but Seguin and a band of active volunteers continue to raise money, collect personal care items and send the packages to the soldiers overseas.

He said the organization recently sent out 633 cases of items to the soldiers.

“We have 344 soldiers on our list and some of them are state employees,” Seguin said.

“His position is going to be abolished,” said Erik Kriss, a spokesman for the state Department of Correctional Services.

This is being done because the 300-bed camp McGregor currently has only about 150 inmates. Over the past eight years the entire state prison population has dropped 12 percent to 62,761, prison officials say.

The larger, 536-inmate medium-security portion of Mount McGregor prison, which is located in the towns of Moreau and Wilton, is not being closed.

“He’s the less senior of two cooks [at McGregor],” Kriss said. “The more senior one stays.”

Kriss said that Seguin and others whose jobs are being eliminated need to get their names on a “voluntary transfer list.”

They will be able to select the facilities where they want to move.

“We have 2,200 people [employees] leave the department every year,” Kriss said. “Positions are opening up all the time.”

Kriss said Seguin and the others losing their jobs in 2009 will have six to nine months to make a transfer to another state facility.

Kriss said the Washington Correctional Facility and Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, Washington County, are not that distant from Wilton.

“We have to make some tough decisions,” Kriss said. Besides the camp closings, the medium-security Hudson Correctional Facility in Columbia County is targeted for closure.

“We recognize the good work that [Seguin] does in the community,” Kriss said.

Kriss said the millions of dollars that will be saved by the closures are needed by the state corrections system to meet new mandates to provide additional treatment and programs to mentally ill inmates and provide enhanced treatment for sex offenders.

“We are trying to do our best,” Kriss said.

State legislators who represent Saratoga County, including state Assemblyman Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, are urging Gov. Spitzer to keep camp McGregor open.

The combination of state legislators, the correction officers union, and the state Civil Service Employees Association has been successful in past years in getting the state to change its mind about prison closures.

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