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Poughkeepsie, NY… Following several years of public input and careful analysis to address Dutchess County’s long-standing issue of lack of capacity and housing out inmates, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has submitted a bond authorization resolution to the Dutchess County Legislature to fund the design and construction of a new Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center (DCJTC). The DCJTC will be an efficient, modern facility that provides the necessary space to expand the County’s innovative restorative justice programs to better transition inmates back into the community and decrease future recidivism as well as provide the housing space required by the New York State Commission of Corrections. The new facility is expected to be complete in 2020 and will eliminate the need to house inmates in other counties facilities at an annual cost of more than $8 million. Beginning in the first year of operation, 2021, the new DCJTC is expected to save taxpayers more than $5 million annually after debt service is factored in.
County Executive Molinaro said, “After a careful and prudent evaluation of our criminal justice needs, we are presenting a comprehensive proposal for the design and construction of a Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center that enhances public safety and will be less costly for our taxpayers than our current facility.”
“The DCJTC will enable us to continue to enhance our diversion and intervention programs and establish a comprehensive system of justice that will be a model for counties across the nation,” continued Molinaro. “Our proposal includes significant investment in integrated youth services and crime prevention, including investment in a new Youth Center in the City of Poughkeepsie.”
The Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center (DCJTC) will be built at the site of the current Dutchess County Jail facility. The new DCJTC will be a total of 297,000 square feet with up to 569 beds. Most of the current facility will be demolished, with the exception of the section built in 1995, which will be renovated and incorporated within the new building design. The current Sheriff’s Office building will also be demolished to make room for the DCJTC and a 56,000 square foot Law Enforcement Center, with enhanced design efficiency and greater public access will be built at the site of Taylor Manufacturing building purchased by the County in 2014. The entire site will feature expanded on-site parking and significant green space to enhance the streetscape view based on public input at community meetings. The surrounding area will be enhanced with added public green space beyond the jail site to provide connections with the nearby Walkway Over the Hudson, Dutchess Rail Trial and Fallkill Creek.
Dutchess County Sheriff Adrian “Butch” Anderson said, “The time has come to move forward – we must keep all of the good work that has been done over the past several years going. With the temporary housing units, we have our inmates back here in Dutchess County and we are saving taxpayers money. There are important programs underway to help inmates change their ways so they can go back into the community and not come back to jail. We can only keep doing all of this if we move ahead with this project. This project has my support and the support of my entire Sheriff Office and Correctional team. We look forward to working with County Executive Molinaro and the Legislature to get this project underway.”
The proposal for the Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center follows several years of analysis and research that began in 2012, when County Executive Molinaro directed the Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council (CJC) to undertake a comprehensive needs assessment of the Dutchess County criminal justice system. The CJC’s Needs Assessment Report, which was validated by industry expert RicciGreeneAssociates in 2013, called for a two pronged approach – first, enhance the County’s innovative work with Alternatives to Incarceration programs to divert people away from the jail and drive down recidivism; and second, move forward with larger jail facility, designed as transition center campus where the County can improve its ability to institute additional evidence-based rehabilitative and re-entry programs.
Much work has been done as part of the County’s efforts to divert individuals away from the jail including the creation of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team, which assisted more than 3,700 individuals in 2105 alone; Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for local law enforcement, ensuring every officer on patrol knows how to effectively interact with individuals in crisis; and a new Stabilization Center that will open later this year to serve as a location to divert those individuals in crisis away from the jail and toward the help they need.
Andrew O’Grady, Executive Director for Mental Health America of Dutchess County, said, “Dutchess County Government has demonstrated its willingness to embrace new ideas to make positive changes for our community. County Executive Molinaro and the County must be applauded for engaging the community throughout this process and all of the efforts underway to make a positive difference in so many lives.”
The new facility will provide critical space to offer evidence-based programming to help inmates address behavioral and criminogenic issues, such as the County’s new RESTART program that offers cognitive therapy for high-risk offenders that is linked with critical aftercare and connects them with community providers when they return home.
This program is off to a very successful start but is already at maximum capacity due to lack of space at the current jail. Special populations, such as women, those with substance abuse issues or mental health issues, will also be better served with appropriate housing units designed to best address their needs.
Additionally, the modern design will provide a far more efficient staff-to-inmate ratio, estimated to be at least a 1 correction officer per 3 inmates. The current jail facility (not including the temporary housing units) requires a 1 correction officer to 1.2 inmate ratio. This will provide significant annual operational savings.
Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady said, “An appropriate jail facility is critical to ensuring public safety. The current facility is a broken component in an otherwise strong, well- functioning criminal justice system here in Dutchess County. The role of the District Attorney’s Office is to prosecute and enforce our laws; over the years of housing out, we have seen how having inmates in other facilities slows down the justice process. It is crucial we move forward with a facility that serves the needs of our community. We cannot return to an unsustainable housing out policy.”
The bond proposal also includes $500,000 for a comprehensive analysis of youth services and crime prevention that will serve as the Project Definition for the creation of a Youth Center in the City of Poughkeepsie. Once the Project Definition for the Youth Center is complete, the County will provide $1.5 million in capital investment for the Youth Center’s construction. County Executive Molinaro announced at his recent 2016 State of the County Address that he would be adding $500,000 to the County’s capital project plan which currently includes $1 million for the Youth Center.
The total cost for the design and construction of the Dutchess County Justice and Transition Center, the Law Enforcement Center, as well as the project definition for the new Youth Center, will total $192,150,000. Costs include design, site work and demolition, furniture, fixtures and equipment and bullet resistance for the Law Enforcement Center. Additionally, these costs build in potential cost escalation as well as auditing services. The funding resolution calls local business and workforce preference to the extent possible under applicable laws.
When completed, the total operational costs of the DCJTC are estimated to be $13.6 million less than the projected costs to continue to operate the current facility and house inmates in other facilities. Debt service payments, which would begin in 2021, are projected at $9.9 million annually for DCJTC. When factoring in debt service costs that would be required at the current jail and Sheriff’s Office facilities for necessary maintenance, the total annual cost savings for taxpayers equate to $5.4 million annually for the new facility.
During construction of the DCJTC and the Law Enforcement Center, the County will utilize Bond Anticipation Notes (BAN), a commonly used financing method for large construction projects that are expected to take several years to construct and will provide long-term operational savings once complete. The BANs minimize the short-term impact on the County by deferring the principle payments during the construction process until the facility is open and the significant operational savings begin to be realized.
Dutchess County Comptroller James Coughlan said, “After multiple meetings and discussions with the Administration regarding the DCJTC, my initial concerns have been satisfied and I feel the financial plan in place is solid, sustainable and responsible to our taxpayers.”
The Dutchess County Legislature will vote on the Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center bond authorization at a special board meeting scheduled for March 21st. There will be several legislative meeting as well as public forums where information about the proposal will be presented. There will question and answer sessions, including an External Advisory Group meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 16th at Catharine Street Community Center at 6:30pm. More information about the DCJTC process and a complete public meeting schedule is available at www.dutchessny.gov/dcjtc
Dutchess County Legislature Chairman Dale Borchert said, “The Dutchess County Legislature is committed to a careful, methodical review of this project. We have the opportunity to create a national model that modernizes our infrastructure, ensures public safety, reduces costs for our taxpayers, and provides necessary services for our community. We have been engaged in this process over the last several years and we need to see it through to final completion. I encourage all residents to take part in our careful deliberations so we can produce the best outcomes for Dutchess County.”
The Dutchess County Legislature’s meetings are recorded and a webcast of the meeting, including the DCJTC presentation, can be seen here.