By Richard Perkins
A little over one year ago, the Dutchess County Legislature passed Resolution No. 2013081, authorizing the New York State Division of Criminal Justice to spend $50,000 on hiring a consultant to develop a strategic plan for addressing the lack of jail space for the county’s inmate population. The resulting report by that consultant, Ricci-Green Associates, offered specific recommendations, including the location for temporary inmate housing units (PODs). Shockingly, those recommendations are now being willfully ignored.
I have supported reasonable jail expansion since before I joined the legislature. I have never supported abandoning the current jail and building a brand-new facility. Unfortunately, I fear we are now being led down that road.
On March 4, 2014, County Executive Marc Molinaro and Sheriff Adrian Anderson signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the New York State Commission of Corrections (COC), committing to the completion of a new facility. The memorandum finally allows for placement of temporary PODs. Unfortunately, the location for the PODS ignores past and current studies and would make it impossible to undertake expansion and renovation of the current jail buildings.
I continue to support the POD concept because it could: keep inmates closer to families, allow legal processing to be improved, make rehabilitation programs more available, and reduce liability issues. However, I’m not entirely convinced it will save money, as the administration has projected.
In fact, the PODs are being proposed in a location that county-authorized recommendations say is the preferred site for any expansion of the current jail. So placing the PODs there will almost surely force abandonment of that facility, requiring the construction of an entirely new, very expensive structure — the price tag starting at over $200 million, before interest and cost overruns.
Nevertheless, the plans for placing the PODs appear to be going forward without regard to what it will cost the Dutchess County taxpayer. By reducing – even eliminating – other available and reasonable options, this action will translate directly to increased bonding and higher taxes on the backs of the county’s property owners.
We need to put these units in the location recommended in the 2013 Ricci Greene report. Otherwise, we will have wasted $50,000 on developing a strategic plan that the County Executive and the Sheriff have chosen to ignore. Either the administration is making a huge error, or it is conjuring a clandestine tactic designed to move Dutchess County taxpayers toward an expensive self-fulfilling prophecy by eliminating other options.
The Dutchess County Legislature will likely vote on this proposal in committee on May 8 and at our board meeting on May 12. Contact the County Executive (486-2000), the Sheriff (486-3800) and your legislator (486-2100) and express your opinion before it is too late.
Perkins is a County Legislator for Hyde Park