It took nine months and $2.5 million, but the Otsego County jail renovations are finally completed. Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin says while the building looks nice, the layout of the building is outdated for the way jails are now run.
"We have brought the building back into an acceptable level. It does not plan for the future. So I have a person that watches this whole section, and I have a person that watches that whole section, and at some point I can see the Commission saying you have to watch your inmates more closely because you’re doing rounds every 20 minutes or so. Maybe we have to put another person down here," said Devlin.
The renovations added handicapped accessible areas, but that also lowered the number of beds by two. The jail has also set aside areas for inmates showing COVID 19 symptoms, and an area for those who become infected. You can’t enter the jail without being screened for symptoms, and the entire facility has been sanitized to the CDC and Department of Health standards. The jail is ready to receive inmates, but will they be able to fill it?
"We have seen an increase in crime. We saw an increase in crime prior to the coronavirus, but we’ve definitely seen a noticeable uptick in domestics, burglaries, larcenies, mental health calls, things of that nature," said Devlin.
The bail reform laws will keep most of those offenses from jail time, but there is a number of criminals ready to occupy the jail.
"We lost a lot of people that were on parole, parole holds, because of the epidemic and things of that nature, so there’s people that were waiting to go back to State Prison that we have put back out on the streets, and we’re starting to see some of those come back for other crimes," Devlin added.
The sheriff has seen an increase in a number of inmates returning to jail, and only time will tell if the crime rates will go up once the State’s quarantine has been lifted.