By Amanda Purcell
CATSKILL — The remaining housing units of the Greene County Jail will be temporarily closed because of structural concerns, according to the Greene County Sheriff’s office.
Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley and three Greene County legislators decided to close the remaining housing units — in effect shutting down the jail — after consulting with a structural engineering firm, according to a statement from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office did not name the three legislators. Repeated calls and attempts to contact Greene County lawmakers for comment went unanswered. The Greene County Administrator’s office directed all press inquiries to the sheriff’s office.
The decision was made as a precaution to keep staff and inmates safe, according to the statement. Final structural engineering evaluations are expected to be completed next week with other recommendations to follow.
“Basically, the infrastructure of this building is falling down around us,” Seeley said late Friday afternoon.
All inmates will be transferred to facilities in nearby counties – 30 to Columbia and 20 to Ulster, according to the sheriff’s office.
The jail’s housing units are expected to be empty within a few hours, Seeley said at 5 p.m. Friday.
“It’s an unfortunate thing I had to do [moving inmates],” Seeley said. “It is the last thing I wanted to do. But, when it comes to the safety and well-being of employees and inmates, it is a decision that had to be made.”
Certain rooms of the jail building will remain open for booking purposes, Seeley said.
The sheriff’s road patrol will also continue operations out of the building, Seeley said. Road patrol responds to 911 calls, vehicular accidents and complaints, according to Greene County’s website.
Thirty-six corrections officers are employed at the jail, Seeley said.
“They still have to come to work and still have to do inmate transports, such as to go to doctor’s appointments,” Seeley said. “I will not lay off any COs. I will find something for them to do.”
The state Commission of Correction ranked the Greene County Jail in Catskill as one of the worst correctional facilities in the state in a report released Feb. 14.
“We have got major issues with the heating and the water systems,” Seeley said.
“There are major issues with the infrastructure in this facility. I will not take the risk of something happening to one of the employees or risk one of the inmates getting hurt.”
County legislators have discussed three options to address the condition of the jail: building a new jail behind the Greene Correctional Facility off Route 9W in Coxsackie, repairing the current facility in Catskill or sharing a jail with Columbia County.
Seeley said he will review the structural engineering report next week and decide where to house inmates on a long-term basis.
“I would like to see this place made into a parking lot and for a new correctional facility to be built in Coxsackie, as opposed to the shared services jail, which I do not think is good for the people and the taxpayers of this county,” Seeley said. “I hope the legislators will get together to get things moving. This should have been done 25 years ago.”
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.