The plan to close three prisons in New York in the coming months was criticized on Friday by the Public Employees Federation, the second-largest public workers labor organization in the state. 

At the same time, PEF President Wayne Spence called for COVID vaccinations to be made available now to staff at the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. 

All together, New York plans to close three prison facilities in different regions of upstate New York. 

"Recent alarming news reports have confirmed what PEF has said since we learned about the planned closures of the Watertown, Gowanda and Clinton Annex Correctional Facilities: Now is not the time to transfer prison staff to new assignments and crowd the system with more inmates in fewer facilities," Spence said in a statement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration has defended the planned closures amid the reduction of the state's prison population and the cost savings being achieved. Workers at the prisons can be transferred to other positions. 

Meanwhile, it's not yet clear when prison inmates and workers will be given the COVID-19 vaccine. New York remains in the first phase of distribution. 

"There is some good news amid the outbreaks," Spence said.

"DOCCS has recognized that its medical staff needs to be inoculated as soon as possible against COVID. I have advised all eligible PEF members who volunteer for the vaccination to register immediately, but it is not enough. Given the alarming spike in infections, sickness and death in New York's prisons and jails, PEF will continue to push for all DOCCS employees – teachers, counselors, Office of Mental Health and parole personnel who work inside congregate facilities – to receive the vaccine without delay."