News Release

 

For More Information:

William R. Steinhaus
Dutchess County Executive
(845) 486-2000
countyexec@co.dutchess.ny.us

October 27, 1999

 

Steinhaus Year 2000 Budget Fights Jail Overpopulation & Crime;
Adds Funds to Fight Domestic Violence

 

Poughkeepsie, NY - County Executive William R. Steinhaus today announced that his year 2000 Executive Budget will include $717,568 for criminal justice initiatives recommended by the Criminal Justice Council (CJC) to reduce jail overcrowding and recidivism. These funds are included in a Year 2000 budget which cuts property taxes for the fifth time in eight Steinhaus budgets. These initiatives, if implemented, are targeted to reduce the cost of housing out Dutchess County jail inmates to other county jails. That cost is projected to exceed $800,000 this year.

"Criminal justice is one of the core responsibilities of county government. It is one of our most significant cost centers to local property taxpayers and one of the most crucial elements in protecting our quality of life," Steinhaus stated. "That's why I will always keep it at the forefront of the County's work plan and a top priority."

"Over the past few months, the Criminal Justice Council has focused on the jail census," said Hamilton Meserve, Chairman of the Criminal Justice Council and a member of the County Legislature. "By reorganizing the council and creating an effective structure of sub-committees, the council could engage in an intensive effort to develop initiatives which effectively reduce the number of prisoners boarded out to other counties and reduces the cost by at least half to the County during the year 2000. Further reductions can be anticipated in subsequent years. It is the consensus of our membership that these initiatives presented in the 2000 Executive budget will have an immediate impact on over crowding at the jail and enhance the performance of our criminal justice system."

The initiatives proposed by the CJC to reduce jail population are:

Jail Transitions Program - Funding for a transition coordinator, Department of Mental Hygiene supervising social worker and caseworker for a "Transitions Unit" the jail. This program, in a pilot program, has had a profound impact on recidivism with rates declining 45% for the first six months of the program. Re-arrested criminals are a major cause of overcrowding in our jails;

Community Residence Expansion - a doubling of beds at the Community Residence for early transitions for minor, non-violent inmates;

Asset Building - funding a long-term prevention initiative by implementing an asset building model for school age children to build stronger ties to families and community, and help our children to resist criminal influences. This initiative has also been endorsed by the Children's Services Council;

P.I.N.S. Follow-up - funding a mental health worker to provide services within the home to strengthen follow-up to the Persons in Need of Supervision (P.I.N.S.) assessment and to reduce criminal behavior leading to jail. This program targets individuals in the 8 - 16 year old age bracket.

Alternatives to Incarceration - funding an Alternative to Incarceration worker in the Public Defender's Office to help expedite the placement of pre-sentenced and sentenced individuals out of prison to appropriate rehabilitative programs; and

Bail Initiative - add additional options to judges for bail sanctions.

Steinhaus indicated that some of the initiatives complement his administration's past initiatives. "My administration supported the establishment of the Community Residence in 1993. It was part of our vision to break the cycle of recidivism by transitioning individuals back into the community to be productive citizens," Steinhaus stated. "And our asset building initiative, a preventative program for children based on the asset building model used by our Youth Bureau, is consistent with the emphasis this administration has placed on assuring our children grow up to be productive and involved."

In addition to the initiatives put forth by the CJC, the Executive Budget also contains funding for two very important programs involving Dutchess County's response to domestic violence. They are the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) and the Domestic Abuse Awareness Classes program (DAAC).

Last Tuesday, the NYS Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives invited teams of county officials from across the state to an information and training session at Vassar College to learn about the County's DART program. DART is a collaborative interagency effort designed to provide an aggressive response to domestic violence in the City of Poughkeepsie. Initially the program was funded through grants, however, the funding has been reduced and, in order to keep the program alive for another fiscal year, the County Executive has included the necessary monies in his budget. "Normally we do not like being the funder of last resort for any program, but this program which serves an important role in protecting woman against domestic violence must continue," Steinhaus stressed.

The budget includes $232,638 for the continuation of the DART Program. The county also provides in-kind services through its Probation Department estimated at an additional $50,000.

The Domestic Abuse Awareness Classes are operated by Family Services, Inc. The service enhances community safety of women and child victims of domestic abuse by holding the abusers accountable for their behavior. Family services provides assessments for all perpetrators, case management services and psycho-educational classes. "The DAAC program would benefit from full-time coordination," Steinhaus said. "My 2000 Executive Budget contains $30,000 to support this request."

Steinhaus noted that in the year 2000 he will request the Criminal Justice Council review the DAAC program to ensure that it makes the most effective and efficient use of its resources. According to Steinhaus, the CJC has the potential to bring new thoughts and energy to existing programs, thus helping them better serve their constituents.

The CJC was created at the recommendation of County Executive Steinhaus and it was established by the Legislature in 1993. The council was created as a permanent, independent group to collaborate and advise both the County Executive and the Legislature on policy formation and solutions, and to provide a managed response to all critical issues involving the criminal justice system. "The Criminal Justice Council, which we created to advise the executive and legislative  branches, has made suggestions for various initiatives," said Steinhaus. "I have placed these initiatives in the Executive Budget to allow for a thorough examination and discussion of each initiative during the budget review process in the Legislature. This examination process guarantees the cooperation and collaboration of a broad cross section of our community, and inevitably, it helps formulate solutions that are representative of our community."

The membership of the CJC is made up of every element of the criminal justice system. It includes law enforcement, the judiciary, District Attorney, Youth Bureau, Departments of Mental Hygiene, Social Services, Planning and Development, various community organizations, educational institutions and county residents.

In 1997, Dutchess County was one of only two counties statewide, and nine in the country to receive training and technical assistance from the National Institute of Corrections (NIC). According to Steinhaus, the Institute awarded Dutchess County the grant because the county exhibited innovative and pragmatic approaches to problems pertaining to criminal justice. One of the significant outcomes of that training was a re-engineering of the council's organizational structure and process which made it more effective.

"We take the safety of our residents very seriously and I feel my 2000 Executive Budget reflects this." Steinhaus said.

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