By Debra J. Groom
Sheriff Reuel Todd is asking the Oswego County Legislature for more money to pay for inmates he has to ship to other county jails because his jail is full.
Todd said he put $100,000 in the 2014 county budget to pay for housing inmates in other county jails. The cost to do this is $90 a day per inmate.
Through February, Todd’s cost for housing inmates elsewhere was $130,000.
He is asking for $30,000 to make payments already incurred and another $500,000 to pay for housing inmates in other jails for the rest of 2014.
“We do a proposed budget and the county approvs it,” Todd said. “It was overly optimistic that the $100,000 would be enough.”
Todd had this same problem back in 2012, when he ended up asking the county legislature for about $1 million more to pay for shipping inmates to other jails.
When the Oswego County jail is full, any additional inmates have to be housed in other county jails, such as in Cayuga, Madison or Oneida.
There are three primary reasons for there being so many inmates, Todd said.
One is there is more crime taking place. Second is police are doing a great job in finding criminals and arresting them. If they can’t make bail, they have to stay in the county jail.
The third reason is state parolees who commit more crime. Todd said when a state prison inmate is released and put on parole and then commits another crime, that person is held in a county jail until the state decides what to do with him or her.
“They’re (the state) saving money in their budget by not taking these parolees back to state prison and costing the county money,” Todd said. For about two years, state officials, including state Sen. Patricia Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie, who represents Oswego County, have been trying to get the state to take back its parolees.
“But there’s been no movement on the state issues that should be addressed,” Todd said.
Todd’s request asks for $500,000 to be transferred from the County Appropriation Fund Balance to the Prisoners Charges — Other Facilities account.
The request was on the agenda for the April 1 Finance and Personnel committee meeting.
The jail overcrowding issue became so dire in Oswego County in 2012 that legislators approved a number of measures to reduce the number of inmates in the county jail.
District Attorney Gregory Oakes hired a part-time lawyer at $26,000 to handle all the county’s criminal case appeals. Before, one of his assistant district attorneys was handling the appeals, cutting by half the time she had to handle current cases.
Now, that person has a full caseload and is helping to move cases through the system quicker so defendants aren’t sitting in the county jail for months, Oakes said.
The county probation department also began a monitoring bracelet system so non-violent low-level felony offenders could be released with a bracelet instead of sitting in jail.
Oakes said there also is more discussion between prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges that helps to cut down on the amount of time defendants are in the county jail.
But still, with these changes, the jail population remains high.
Todd and Oakes said these measures are working (as of Friday, 25 defendants were on release wearing monitoring bracelets), but increased crime, more parolees and more arrests are putting a strain on the system.