Poughkeepsie . . . Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus has reached out to Sheriff Adrian “Butch” Anderson to enlist his support to save county property taxpayers up to $3 million in 2009. In a recent letter to the Sheriff, County Executive Steinhaus has requested Sheriff Anderson to stand on the side of taxpayers by having the New York State Commission on Corrections reinstate the variance that allows the Sheriff to efficiently use the County jail’s capacity.
“The State has forced county property taxpayers to unnecessarily fork over more than $7 million dollars to ship out local inmates to other jails,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “I’m asking Sheriff Anderson to fight for property taxpayers so they don’t have to spend an additional $3 million dollars next year just to make inmates more comfortable. This is a simple issue,” Steinhaus continued, “jail inmates’ comfort versus taxpayers’ ability to pay – I come down on the side of the property taxpayer.”
The Executive said, “If this spending request from the Sheriff stands, either property taxpayers will have to pick up the tab with higher property taxes, or the $3 million will squeeze out needed county funds for other critical priorities in the 2009 budget including law enforcement, public safety, health and human services for senior citizens and other priority areas.”
The Dutchess County Jail operated for years with a variance from the State Commission on Corrections (COC). The variance allowed up to 318 inmates to be housed at the jail. In 2005, the COC pulled the variance and limited the inmate population to 257 as punitive action because the County did not move forward on the COC unjustified demand to build a mammoth new county jail. To build and operate a new jail would have cost Dutchess County property taxpayers more than $10 million more annually.
Steinhaus said, “As the elected official with direct responsibility for the administration of the jail, Sheriff Anderson can help fight for taxpayers and get the state COC to change their anti- taxpayer stance.”
County Executive Steinhaus has asked Sheriff Anderson to request two immediate actions from the COC:
Reinstate the variance to allow up to 318 inmates to be housed at the jail.
Allow double bunking at the County jail, similar to other correctional facilities across New York State.
In a report recently released by the New York State Commission of Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness (LGEC), it was noted that it is the practice of the COC to pressure counties that they say need new jails either by fining counties or forcing them to incur the expense to board out prisoners. The LGEC recommended that counties be provided flexibility to manage jail populations.
The LGEC’s report acknowledged the issue of jail population has always been a fiscal struggle for counties. One of its major recommendations would be to restructure state oversight of county jails, with the goal of moving toward a single statewide jail system.
Following the release of the report, Governor Paterson also acknowledged the need to reduce the burden on taxpayers and supported the recommendations of the LGEC Commission including the single statewide jail system. “With the cost of living skyrocketing, and the need for governments everywhere to deal with the fiscal realities, we need to help our working families by doing everything we can to lower the cost of government,” said the Governor in April 2008 news release.
“I agree with the Governor, and I hope the Sheriff will agree with both of us and be an ally fighting for overburdened property taxpayers,” said Steinhaus.
“As recently as the September 22nd Legislative meeting, the Sheriff has said he can efficiently run the county jail with up to 318 inmates – just as he did so for many years before the State Commission on Corrections began to interfere. It is time for the State to allow the Sheriff to utilize all of the available space in the jail and to stop punishing county property taxpayers with an unnecessary $3 million in additional housing out costs for 2009,” concluded County Executive Steinhaus.