Andrew Cuomo has found appalling waste and featherbedding in state juvenile justice system

How many state workers does it take to guard an empty juvenile center in upstate New York?

The appalling answer – spotlighted by Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo in his highly instructional visit to the Tryon Center for Boys in Johnstown – is 30 workers at a monthly cost in the millions.

Right Cuomo was to slam this boondoggle – and to demand repeal of the absurd law, passed at the behest of public employee unions, that’s keeping the place open until January even though the last kid checked out in July.

“I mean, it is ridiculous,” Cuomo said. “With a $9 billion deficit, we’re paying 30 staff people to baby-sit an empty building.”

Cuomo could hardly have picked a more fitting symbol of Albany dysfunction – because the Tryon travesty goes far deeper than do-nothing jobs.

In 2009, the center was the focus of a scathing federal investigation that exposed widespread abuse and neglect at numerous facilities run by the state Office of Children and Family Services.

Yet the unions and their allies in the Legislature worried more about preserving jobs than protecting children.

When OCFS Commissioner Gladys Carrion tried to mandate more humane treatment of young charges, the unions balked. And when she moved kids to community-based programs that cost less and work better, upstate lawmakers stalled on closing the increasingly empty prisonlike camps they left behind.

Which why is the per-kid cost of these facilities has soared to $220,000 a year. Which is why the city’s tab from OCFS keeps climbing even though it sends fewer children upstate every year. Which is why Cuomo found 30 workers rattling around a vacant 114-acre camp in Johnstown.

“For me, it’s symbolic,” Cuomo said afterward. “This state government needs radical reform.”

Who could argue?

 

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