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Poughkeepsie, NY… The Dutchess County Legislature last night approved funding for the design and construction of the Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center (DCJTC). The 19-6 bipartisan vote follows several years of public input and careful analysis to address Dutchess County’s long-standing issue of lack of capacity and housing out inmates. 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 DCJTC is expected to save taxpayers more than $5 million annually beginning in the first year of operation – 2021.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “With the support from the Legislature, we finally address a problem that has plagued our criminal justice system for over 20 years. The Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center allows us to end the inhumane and costly practice of housing out inmates, provide enhanced alternatives to incarceration, increase public safety, and deliver savings to taxpayers as a result of a more efficient and safer facility. Over the last several years, we've thoroughly analyzed our criminal justice system, options and met with hundreds of residents. After dozens of town hall forums we've gathered feedback and answered questions about this project. Together, with your suggestions, I’m confident we will create the most comprehensive system of justice of any county in America, making us a model for the rest of the nation: saving tax dollars and lives."
Legislature Chairman Dale Borchert said, “After considerable research and extensive input from our constituents, my fellow legislators and I were able to approve the funding for the Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center. We are grateful to the residents who shared their input at the many public meetings or through email and personal conversations. This Justice & Transition Center will be the cornerstone of our criminal justice system, which can be a model for the rest of the country. In addition to saving taxpayers millions of dollars in operational savings each year, the new facility will end the costly practice of housing out inmates, instead offering the necessary space for programming that will lower recidivism and make our communities safer. This common-sense solution to our jail dilemma is best for Dutchess County – both now and decades from now – and I’m proud of this Legislature’s forward thinking to provide a comprehensive solution to this long-standing issue.”
The Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center (DCJTC) will be built at the site of the current Dutchess County Jail facility on North Hamilton Street in the City of Poughkeepsie. The new DCJTC will be a total of 297,000 square feet with up to 569 beds. The project proposal includes several options to scale down the size of the facility prior to construction if the County continues to have success in bringing down the average daily inmate population. 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 on Parker Avenue 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 County will work with the City of Poughkeepsie to ensure the architectural and neighborhood functionality of the DCJTC is beneficial to the surrounding area.
Dutchess County Legislator Barbara Jeter-Jackson said, “The time has come to address the issues in the criminal justice system. I want to thank those who took the time to share their thoughts and it is clear there are many concerns, which are shared by legislators, regarding those who are suffering with mental health or substance abuse issues. There are clearly problems within our community and must be addressed. I believe the Justice & Transition Center will enable this county to focus on those issues and provide individuals the help they need to address those problems and get out of the criminal justice system.”
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.
Dutchess County Legislator and Chair of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee Ken Roman said, “There is no one who wants to build a jail. However, we have a clear problem that must be addressed. We have a responsibility to provide a facility to house those who judges say must be incarcerated. But we also have a clear opportunity to help people. The new Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center puts the focus on the transition aspect of the facility and it will set Dutchess County apart from every municipality in the nation. With input from this Legislature, we will be able to address the needs of the special populations in the jail whose needs have been ignored for too long - those with mental illness, substance abuse and other issues. In conjunction with the County’s other efforts – the Stabilization Center, Crisis Intervention Training, and now the DCJTC – we are now heading to where we need to go and we can be a model for the state and the nation.”
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.
The bond authorization 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 & 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.
Dutchess County Comptroller James Coughlan said, “After years of taxpayers’ dollars being spent to house out inmates, I am very pleased that Dutchess County has finally embraced a solution that will provide millions of dollars in annual operational savings and address the social dynamics that impact incarceration. I applaud the Dutchess County Legislature for their courage to make the right choice.”
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 Sheriff Adrian “Butch” Anderson said, “Today we move forward with a solution to the problems that have plagued this County for decades. I am grateful to County Executive Molinaro for his leadership on this issue, and I know the plan that the Legislature has approved will ensure Dutchess County can lead with a model for a comprehensive system of justice that enhances public safety for all.”