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How practical is a regional jail in upstate New York?

A proposal in the State Budget would allow Counties to opt into a regional jail, but the measure isn’t adding up for local counties.

Posted: Feb 12, 2020 5:53 PM
Updated: Feb 12, 2020 6:10 PM

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing building regional jails as a cost saving measure. Counties would have the option to lower costs by not maintaining their own separate facility, but the proposition wouldn’t necessarily save any money for upstate counties. The cost to transport inmates back and forth to local courts would not be cost effective. Herkimer County Sheriff Scott Scherer says Herkimer is spending $1.5 million for boarding out their inmates, and is nearing completion of a $38 million dollar new jail.

"Unfortunately with the Bail Reform Act, everybody’s in the same position that we’re in. They’re at all-time lows in numbers, and I don’t believe anybody’s looking right now to Sheriff facilities to board out. If this would have been an option for us you know six- seven years ago, we might not be standing in this spot that we’re standing right now," said Scherer.

The Herkimer Jail is expected to be fully operational by September, so they wouldn’t have a need for a regional facility. Otsego County is in the process of renovation their jail, and although their numbers are down, Sheriff Devlin expects the numbers are only a temporary reaction to the bail reform laws.

"You know I think we lost 10 or 12 inmates. We gained 6 back, so we’re not too far off from where we were. But yeah, we anticipate to see an immediate drop, and within 8-16 months we believe we’re going to be back up to where we were or higher, but time will tell on that," said Devlin.

Even if his numbers don’t rise, a regional jail isn’t a likely option for Otsego County.

"You have Chenango and Deleware. Their jails are anywhere from 12-15 years old so they have direct supervision jails, the pods. You have Herkimer, Schoharie that just built jails, so the opportunity for Otsego to partner with another County to have a centralized location that’s beneficial to both Counties…I just don’t see that in the future," he said.

There is a program that Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol is hoping to see in the future.

"The one thing Sheriff’s do support is the ability through what’s called a substitute jail order, where we can transfer inmates from our facility to another facility for programs that our facility may not offer," said Maciol.

Regionalized jails may work in smaller Counties within close proximity, but that remains to be seen. 

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