Ritchie Jail Overcrowding Bill OK’d By Senate Panel

OSWEGO, NY – Help could soon be on the way to Oswego County and other counties facing an inmate overcrowding situation in local jails.

A bill sponsored by State Senator Patty Ritchie that would help Oswego, Jefferson and other counties facing an inmate crunch in their crowded local jails has been approved by a key Senate committee she said today (March 21).

The Senate’s Crime and Corrections Committee on Tuesday approved the bill, S.5498, which would require payment to the counties for any state inmates who are held in a county jail beyond 10 days.

“Taxpayers in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties are being forced to foot the bill for inmates who are being held in county jails, but who really belong in state lockups,” Sen. Ritchie said. “Besides leading to overcrowding, it forces our local sheriffs to house inmates in facilities in other parts of the state and increases costs for transportation and security. These inmates shouldn’t be the counties’ responsibility.”

Just last week, the Oswego County Legislature approved an extra $200,000 in payment for inmates housed in other counties because Oswego’s 159-bed jail is filled to capacity.

Many of those inmates are parolees who are awaiting transfer to state prisons.

“By failing to take these prisoners or paying counties for housing state inmates New York State is contributing to our jail crowding and forcing local taxpayers to foot the bill,” said Oswego County Sheriff Reule Todd. “Senator Ritchie’s bill is all about fairness. I applaud the senator for taking the lead to fix this problem, which Albany created.”

Under the senator’s bill, the state would have to accept these inmates within 10 days or pay a fee to counties for housing them, restoring a policy that was repealed in 2009.

The bill still must be approved by the full Senate.

“We are extremely happy that Sen. Ritchie got this going. It will be a big help to the county,” Sheriff Todd told Oswego County Today. “We aren’t trying to make any mone on this. We’re just looking to break even.”

The county has sunk $600 thousand into this matter and could possibly need another $400 thousand by the end of 2012, the sheriff warned.

“We hope this gets passed and the county can get some money back,” Sheriff Todd added. Hope it gets done soon so the taxpayers can get some relief from this.”