Letter to Administrative Judge of Ninth Judicial District
November 24, 2004
Honorable Francis A. Nicolai
Dear Judge Nicolai:
Recently Dutchess County Sheriff Adrian Anderson has requested the support and approval of the Dutchess County Legislature and the County Executive for a major jail expansion in Dutchess County which according to the Sheriff’s proposal was expected to cost county government a startling $45 to $50 million. Thereafter, the New York State Corrections Commission advised Dutchess County we would be required by the State to build a larger and more expensive facility that may cost $70 million or more (including interest it will exceed $133 million). This is simply for the construction costs. Additionally, operating costs for a larger facility including staffing will reach multiple millions of dollars annually. These are costs that would send fiscal shock waves through other departments, services and programs in county government and create serious damage, as dollars would be siphoned from precious existing county programs. Dramatically sharp increases in property taxes for Dutchess County homeowners will also result.
The inmate population at the Dutchess County Jail continues to climb. Legitimate questions exist regarding the effectiveness and productivity of the judicial system and the criminal justice process. Specifically, I am writing to you regarding the necessity for additional judicial resources to be allocated to more effectively and efficiently move the caseload through the Dutchess County criminal court system.
Initially when I planned to write this letter to you my expectation was I would write and ask you assign supplemental “Acting County Court Judges” to Dutchess County in order to reduce the expanding population in the County Jail awaiting judicial disposition, trial and sentencing. I was surprised to learn that you have assigned one of our County Court Judges to Acting Supreme Court Judge responsibilities. One could reasonably conclude this policy contributes to the escalating number of inmates at the County Jail and is costing Dutchess County’s budget and our taxpayers’ monies that should not have been expended. It is my understanding on a regular basis 60% of Judge Dolan’s time has been assigned away from his County court responsibilities thereby slowing what should have been a more expeditious handling of County Court cases.
I am writing today to request you immediately reinstate County Court Judge Dolan to full time criminal case responsibilities in order that these cases may be moved with all possible alacrity.
I do not mean to suggest the number of “bed days” or the number of inmates in the County Jail is a sole result of inadequate County Court resources but it certainly would appear to be a contributing factor. To demonstrate my expectation that a comprehensive set of strategies and tactics be undertaken to better manage the inmate population, I am communicating with the District Attorney, Public Defender, Director of Probation and the Commissioner of Mental Hygiene in Dutchess County, together with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to request they immediately identify both short and long term solutions to insure other practices, policies, and resources are adequate to enable the County Court Judges to effectively move their cases.
Thank you for your attention to this letter and request and I look forward to a response at your earliest convenience.
WILLIAM R. STEINHAUS
Cc: Hon. Thomas J. Dolan, County Court Judge