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Greene County Jail Proposal — A massive financial mistake to correct

June 4, 2019 11:30 am

To the editor:

As a local resident and taxpayer for 35 years, I can tell you that building a new jail facility in a regional environment that contains more than 600+ vacant jail beds in 5 counties that border Greene County is lacking fiscal responsibility across the board. This is especially true of Greene County.

A “shared facility” or a “regional Jail” has long been envisioned in New York state and dates back to a 1991 AG Formal Opinion issued by Robert Abrams. In response to a State Commission of Corrections (SCOC) request for a review, the AG held that “special legislation” was not required to authorize “regional jails.” He ruled that Article 5-G of the Municipalities Law — applying to counties as well — empowered two or more counties to enter into an agreement to “establish a regional jail operated by one or more counties.” County Law 217 requires counties to “maintain a county jail as prescribed by law.” Abrams held that the law — Article 5-G — defined state law as “authorizing the establishment of regional jails through municipal cooperation agreements.” The SCOC followed that determination but no regional jails were developed. Many interpret County Law 217 as requiring each county to have a jail within its own borders.

However, County Law 217 states that the jail matter is “according to law.” The 1991 AG Formal Opinion held that the law permitted “regional jails” between two or more counties. To eliminate confusion, the State Legislature can amend the statute, along with others, to make the regional jail option crystal clear.

Right now, Greene County is surrounded by more than 600 vacant facility beds. With the change in the cash-bail system applied in January, this number will swell further — 800+ or more. Hasn’t the time come to regionalize pre-trial jail occupancy to balance occupancy in a regional sense — and taxpayer cost — as “fiscally efficient and prudent? Such a determination would save tens of millions of tax dollars in Greene County as well as any participating receiving county.

Robert Janiszewski