County OK’s Funds To House Prisoners Elsewhere

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Legislature voted Thursday to approve $200,000 for the Sheriff’s Office.

The funding is earmarked to cover the cost of shipping local prisoners to out-of county jails. The vote was 24-0-1 with Legislator Mary Flett absent.

According to Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd, all the cells at the Oswego County Public Safety Center currently are occupied.

The capacity at OCJ continues to exceed its limits due to over-crowding, Todd recently explained to the county’s public safety committee.

Inmates must be housed at other facilities at the expense of the county sheriff’s budget.

In 2012, $100,000 was adopted for the “prisoner charges – other facilities” budget line.

However, to date, with expenses already incurred so far this year, more than half of that amount has been exhausted.

At last month’s committee meeting, the sheriff requested $600,000.

That is probably an amount the sheriff could use, Legislator Art Ospelt noted Thursday.

Legislator Jacob Mulcahey asked if perhaps expanding the jail might be one possible solution to the situation.

“No, we’re looking at expanding the jail,” replied Fred Beardsley, chair of the legislature.

The sheriff is pursuing some other options, Oswego County Administrator Phil Church pointed out.

“A lot of this comes from more state parolees being let out of jail,” he said.

The state requires county jails to house state prison parolees who are rearrested, the sheriff said. However, the state doesn’t pay the counties for doing that.

“We are also having more arrests due to good police work in the county,” Church added. “So we are looking at what other alternatives there are to incarceration.”

“One of the alternatives we could possibly look at would be to form a cooperative plan with other counties that are experiencing the same problem,” suggested Legislator Jack Proud. “Enter into some kind of regional agreement with the state whereby the county would share the cost with state for doing this. I know that’s a plan that’s worked in other places.”

Mulcahey pointed out the county is spending thousands of dollars because of this problem. And, he cautioned the county as to alternatives to incarceration citing the arrest of a recent parolee who was re-arrested for stealing a vehicle on the legislator’s street.

“So, we have to be careful when we’re looking at what our alternative are,” he said. “If we’re going to keep dumping money into this, maybe the jail expansion is something we want to look at.”

Some counties have been trying to form “groupings” where they can get together to open up a state facility, Legislator Shawn Doyle pointed out.

“The new building requirements for a new jail are absolutely cost-prohibitive; with all sorts of different amenities that we never would have even dreamed about before,” he said. “So, we really need to look at opening some of the state facilities (that the state shuttered) for some sort of joint ownership or use.”

“Adding on to the jail is not simply the one-time roughly $10 million expense. You also have state mandates that dictate the staffing levels there – you have salaries, operational costs and more another $1.5 million to $2 million every year,” Church explained.