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County officials say HALT Act won’t affect new jail

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    A local group of investors is interested in buying the old Greene County Jail on Bridge Street in Catskill, but Deputy Greene County Administrator Warren Hart said the property is not for sale.
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    Jail critics filled the room at the Legislature meeting Wednesday night as county lawmakers deliberated for an hour about how to proceed, if at all, with the jail project.
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    Contributed photoRenderings of the new Greene County Jail project in Coxsackie.
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    Greene County lawmakers discuss an amendment to remove a $1.3 million garage from the plans for the new jail at a recent meeting. Construction of the jail could begin as early as next week.
June 20, 2019 09:20 am Updated: June 20, 2019 09:23 am

COXSACKIE — As construction on the new Greene County jail looms, a proposed state law may change the way prisons and jails deal with solitary confinement.

Legislation called the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act was on the Senate floor Wednesday, the last day of the state legislative session. In the Assembly, the bill was referred to the Ways and Means Committee in March.

Sponsored by state Sen. Luis Sepulveda, D-32, and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, D-35, the bill would restrict the use of segregated confinement and create alternative therapeutic and rehabilitative confinement options.

“Solitary confinement is torture,” Sepulveda said in a statement. “We have seen the horrific effects of long-term confinement on incarcerated people and their families, far too often resulting in suicide or life-long trauma. We must treat everyone with dignity and humanity, including those in our correctional system. The HALT bill will end long-term solitary confinement and create evidence-based rehabilitation programs to holistically support those who need it most. I am grateful to my colleagues and the advocates who are working hard to make sure we pass S1623 and end torture in New York State.”

Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said he thinks felt the law is geared more toward prisons, he said.

“There is no design in my jail for solitary confinement,” Groden said. “Every cell is the same.”

If an inmate was violent, they could be left in their cell, Groden said.

“But they still need so many hours of exercise,” he added.

Having special housing and procedures for solitary confinement is nothing new, Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley said.

“I’m sure there will be a room or two designated for it in the new jail,” Seeley said.

At the former jail at 80 Bridge St. in Catskill, a special housing unit could be created by closing off one to two cells for an inmate, Seeley said.

“And they are only allowed out at certain times,” he said. “That’s what happens when they can’t behave themselves.”

Solitary was not a common occurrence at the former jail, Seeley said.

“I can’t remember a time when we’ve had to indefinitely confine someone because they can’t behave,” he said.

In the state Commission of Correction’s 2018 Worst Offender’s report, Greene County Jail was listed among the top five worst facilities in the state.

The majority of the commission’s evaluation for Greene County included citations for improper policies and procedures.

After site visits in March and April 2016, the facility was found to have been locking male inmates in their cells for a majority of the day as a matter of routine practice, according to the report.

“Such inmates did not pose a threat to the safety and security of the facility, staff, or other inmates, and the facility could not justify such lock-ins,” according to the report.

Correspondence from the commission to Seeley and Greene County Attorney Ed Kaplan in November 2016 ordered the jail to discontinue this practice and amend its policies and procedures.

The jail discontinued the lock-ins, according to the report.

Construction on the new 48-bed facility, which will be built off Route 9W in Coxsackie, is set to begin late next week, Groden said.

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from which the county is borrowing $39 million for the project, has not signed off on the construction contracts, the project will continue.

“We have the option to pursue a general obligation bond instead,” Groden said, adding that the rates may end up being less than the 3.5% interest rate set by the USDA.

Congressman Antonio Delgado did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding the use of USDA funding for the jail.

A switch in financing would not require board action because the Legislature authorized the funding back in September, Groden said.

Comments
Greene County should be concerned. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and State Senator state Sen. Luis Sepulveda, D-32, share a view that forms a general consensus among medical professionals and corrections administrators: “Solitary confinement is torture.”

Senator Sepulveda is further quoted as saying, “We have seen the horrific effects of long-term confinement on incarcerated people and their families, far too often resulting in suicide or life-long trauma.

But these experts are contradicted by Sheriff Greg Seeley, who has been trying to lock in his regressive, inhuman practices, while threatening his retirement since the scandal broke a few years ago regarding two women alleging serial sexual abuse instances at the condemned Greene Coutny Jail while on Seeley's watch: "Having special housing and procedures for solitary confinement is nothing new, Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley said.
“I’m sure there will be a room or two designated for it in the new jail,” Seeley said. At the former jail at 80 Bridge St. in Catskill, a special housing unit could be created by closing off one to two cells for an inmate, . . . “And they are only allowed out at certain times,” he said. “That’s what happens when they can’t behave themselves.”

Seeley is leaving, and he's being replaced by a Sheriff yet to be chosen by the voters. But, he has been aggressive and shameless in promoting his roundly condemned policies as well as in pushing for an unnecessary, destructively overpriced new jail in Coxsackie. The belligerence is so deep rooted that it leads t speculation that there must be more in this for Seeley and his cronies than keeping prisoners in an environment that has been likened to torture - since they apparently intend to flout the new law and continue this regressive practice.

Meanwhile, two administrators, who no one elected or voted for, Groden and Kaplan, continue to spearhead an effort to ignore legislative initiatives and for a general obligation debt down the throats and onto the debt load of the next Greene County generation. Shame on them, and a federal prosecutor might consider taking a good, hard look at outgoing Sheriff Seeley's polices, practices, and history, because his arrogance and bullying attitudes coincided with the deaths of detainees and more than one law suit for unnecessary force and malicious intent brought to bear by Greene County Sheriffs. That all contributed and lay behind the Greene County Jail being cited just under Rikers as the SECOND worse facility in the state, among five counties cited.

The Sheriff and his goons have attempted to intimidate the public speaking out publicly against, "their" jail the same way, as they evidently, singled out and victimized prisoners (detainees in fact) who "didn't behave" - i.e. obey their authoritarian whimsy and bullying ways.
Greene County should be concerned. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and State Senator state Sen. Luis Sepulveda, D-32, share a view that forms a general consensus among medical professionals and corrections administrators: “Solitary confinement is torture.” Sheriff Seeley seems to believe it's his prerogative to mete out to "those prisoners who can't behave.." His "defense" is that he "can't recall," when he's confined a prisoner, "indefinitely." Since we're talking of detainees awaiting trial or sentencing- Seeley's attitude is all the more jaw dropping.

Senator Sepulveda is further quoted as saying, “We have seen the horrific effects of long-term confinement on incarcerated people and their families, far too often resulting in suicide or life-long trauma.

But these experts are contradicted by Sheriff Greg Seeley, who has been trying to lock in his regressive, inhuman practices, while threatening his retirement since the scandal broke a few years ago regarding two women alleging serial sexual abuse instances at the condemned Greene Coutny Jail while on Seeley's watch: "Having special housing and procedures for solitary confinement is nothing new, Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley said.
“I’m sure there will be a room or two designated for it in the new jail,” Seeley said. At the former jail at 80 Bridge St. in Catskill, a special housing unit could be created by closing off one to two cells for an inmate, . . . “And they are only allowed out at certain times,” he said. “That’s what happens when they can’t behave themselves.”

Seeley is leaving, and he's being replaced by a Sheriff yet to be chosen by the voters. But, he has been aggressive and shameless in promoting his roundly condemned policies as well as in pushing for an unnecessary, destructively overpriced new jail in Coxsackie. The belligerence is so deep rooted that it leads t speculation that there must be more in this for Seeley and his cronies than keeping prisoners in an environment that has been likened to torture - since they apparently intend to flout the new law and continue this regressive practice.

Meanwhile, two administrators, who no one elected or voted for, Groden and Kaplan, continue to spearhead an effort to ignore legislative initiatives and for a general obligation debt down the throats and onto the debt load of the next Greene County generation. Shame on them, and a federal prosecutor might consider taking a good, hard look at outgoing Sheriff Seeley's polices, practices, and history, because his arrogance and bullying attitudes coincided with the deaths of detainees and more than one law suit for unnecessary force and malicious intent brought to bear by Greene County Sheriffs. That all contributed and lay behind the Greene County Jail being cited just under Rikers as the SECOND worse facility in the state, among five counties cited.

The Sheriff and his goons have attempted to intimidate the public speaking out publicly against, "their" jail the same way, as they evidently, singled out and victimized prisoners (detainees in fact) who "didn't behave" - i.e. obey their authoritarian whimsy and bullying ways.