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Agency: Greene, Dutchess County Jails Among 5 'Worst' In NY

Composite Image by Dave Lucas (WAMC)

The Commission of Correction has identified five jails as the “worst” in New York state. The Greene and Dutchess County Jails are on the list.

The watchdog agency issued a report Wednesday citing the “most problematic” correctional facilities in New York state: New York City's Rikers Island, the Greene County Jail in Catskill, the Erie County Holding Center and Correctional Facility, the Dutchess County Jail in Poughkeepsie and the Syracuse area's Onondaga County Justice Center and Penitentiary.

The paper is the culmination of on-site inspections, interviews, and investigations at several local jailhouses. Greene County Legislator Lee Palmateer of Athens is a Democrat:   "And it looks like there were a lot of problems identified by the New York State Commission on Corrections. And there was correspondence back and forth between the commission and the county."

Factors contributing to the low ratings in the report include infrastructure, staffing, violent incidents, hospitalizations and suicides.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro:   "I've said since the day I took office that Dutchess County's current jail is inefficient, ineffective, and in many ways it is inhumane, which is why we began a comprehensive effort to replace it with a modern facility that would help us to implement a comprehensive series of criminal justice reforms focused on restorative justice. We have committed, Dutchess County, an enormous amount of resources to provide individuals in the system with alternatives to incarceration along with mental health support. We are in the midst of replacing the county jail, and in fact will be moving forward with a full Justice and Transition Center. We're in the middle of both the design and construction phase. And the state of New York is well aware of the progress. In fact the state of New York has highlighted Dutchess County's progress in the area of criminal justice reform."

The Republican says there is a need for sweeping mental health policies to assist incarcerated individuals.  "It would nice for the state of New York to not only highlight the fact that certain jail facilities need to be improved. It would be better if they actually put some resources where their words are."

A Commission of Corrections spokesperson declined to comment, referring WAMC to a recent statement by Governor Andrew Cuomo's chief counsel, Alphonso David, which says in part that the governor's administration “will demand focus and an expeditious resolution to these systemic, unconscionable and illegal conditions.”

Meanwhile, Palmateer notes that the prisoner population count at the Catskill jail has declined.  "Average daily prisoner counts have gone down from 85 in 2013 to 43 currently."

He believes the decline could be partially the result of alternatives to incarceration programs.

The report says shortages in total staffing levels resulted in the reduction of allowable inmate capacity. It also notes that the jail, built in the early 1900s, has outlived its usefulness and requires replacement.

Coincidentally, the Greene County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee approved a resolution Monday to stop all work on an ambitious plan to build shared jail facility with Columbia County.   "The shared facility idea was intended to save money and it hasn't gotten so far as to have concrete numbers about how much it would save. It requires two county governing bodies to co-ordinate, it's actually a fairly new endeavour, so, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors was working on their end and the Green County Legislature on its end, but I don't feel like this has real serious potential. I believe that that avenue is going to be closed at our next meeting next week because, at least in my view, there are too many uncertainties to pull it off. And not only that but I believe we have to provide a jail in Greene County to fulfill our duties as a government  to the county, to the people of the county and to the state of New York."

Problematic Jails Report 2 2018 on Scribd

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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