Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lack of jail space costing county

Jefferson's First-Quarter Expenses
Exceeded Annual Budget;Solutions Debated

With a little more than a third of the year gone,
Jefferson County has already exceeded its 2010
budget for outboarding prisoners.

Sheriff John P. Burns said on Tuesday that his jail population report for the first quarter of the year shows that $337,672 has been spent for outboarding inmates. The county budgeted $250,000 for the entire year.

In the last quarter of 2009, the county paid more than $235,000 for outboarding, he said.

As of Monday, the county had 33 of its inmates being held in five different county jails, including 10 in St. Lawrence County and eight in Lewis County. Seven are housed as far away as Broome County, with two in Clinton County and six in Madison County.

"We now travel from Clinton County at one end of the state to the other end of the state in Broome County," the sheriff said.

This year's cost includes nearly $30,900 just for transporting prisoners, he said.

With the county already over its outboarding budget, a county legislator wants New York state to make prison beds available.

"It just makes sense," said Michael J. Docteur, R-Cape Vincent, chairman of the jail ad hoc committee of the Board of Legislators. "Why should county taxpayers have to pay for a new building when the state is talking about closing state prisons?"

One problem, he acknowledged, is getting a law passed in Albany that would make unused prison space available for the housing of county prisoners.

An alternative that has been discussed on and off for years is an expansion of the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building facility. Jefferson County could be looking at borrowing $1.2 million to build new jail space, plus the expenditure for more staffing, Mr. Docteur said.

"We are working with our state representatives, looking for relief," he said. "We'd like some answers as soon as possible."

Mr. Docteur and Mr. Burns are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss overcrowding at the jail.

Mr. Burns said he didn't think Mr. Docteur's proposal would help.

"First of all, it's going to take a couple of years to get the two houses in Albany to pass a law," the sheriff said. "And then, if that happens, do we want to pay state correction people one and a half times more than what we pay county personnel? It's still going to be taxpayer money."

Even if the county were to build an addition, he maintains that it will be three years before a new portion would be ready for use.

"This is why I said seven years ago that we needed to start looking at the problem, but the Board of Legislators didn't want to listen to me," Mr. Burns said.

Click HERE to read more on Jail Expansion from the WDT

No comments:

Post a Comment