The long standing inmate housing out problem in Dutchess County continues to burden Dutchess County as the “new normal” includes more inmates housed in other county’s jails than in our own Dutchess County Jail on any given day. The impacts of housing out are significant including costs in excess of $8 million annually; nightmarish logistical and liability problems for jail administrators in scheduling 200-275 individuals for transport and placement on a daily basis; hindering the ability for courts, prosecuting and defense attorneys, and criminal justice entities responsible to evaluate, support, and supervise persons remanded to the Dutchess County criminal justice system. Additionally, it creates a moral injustice to those incarcerated by making it very difficult for them to have the contact and support of their loved ones, attorneys and our robust Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs. A multi-phased process has begun to correct this unacceptable situation.
We are working diligently to address this issue and invite you to learn more about what has been done so far, where we hope to get to and how you can be involved throughout the project discussion and development.
Have questions or comments? Connect with us HERE.
At the request of County Executive Molinaro, the Criminal Justice Council (CJC) published a Needs Assessment of the Dutchess County criminal justice system in 2012, recommending a two-pronged approach for creating additional jail capacity while enhancing and expanding our nationally recognized array of ATIs. This assessment was validated by industry experts Ricci Greene Associates in their May 2013 study who recommended the County proceed with a Project Definition Initiative moving forward on both approaches. They also agreed with the CJC that temporary housing at the North Hamilton Street Jail location could provide an interim solution which would yield monetary benefits and provide the systemic changes required to analyze the necessary jail capacity.
In 2014, the Dutchess County Legislature approved a capital project to install temporary housing near the current jail which will allow for the housing of an additional 200 inmates in Dutchess County. This new housing configuration will save approximately $1 million per year during the 3-4 year expected use of the PODs. To learn more about these temporary units, click HERE.
Our goal, long-term, is not only to increase jail capacity, but also to consider programs to compliment current ATI activity. Mixed use strategies including park space, retail structures and program space will all further convert the Hamilton Street property. This approach will allow us to build not just a jail but the new Dutchess County Justice and Transition Center (DCJTC).
The County issued a Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) to seek a partner for site development at Hamilton Street. The submittal received included a diverse team of various specialists in engineering and architecture, urban planning and development, environmental services, jail construction and schematic design. The group will be led by Ricci Greene Associates under the project leadership of the Commissioner of Public Works. We also issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a consultant to prepare programming strategies for the special population needs of our county inmates. Kevin Warwick of Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc. was chosen to provide expertise and direction for our inmate needs as we transition to the new environment with PODs and then into the DCJTC. His input will assist in identifying what evidence based programs we can implement to address special populations and what facilities or programs can have the biggest impact and therefore are deemed reasonable for inclusion in the DCJTC.
Attempting to include the community and ensure an inclusive, transparent process, several committee/workgroups have been established. An internal steering group led by the Deputy County Executive will work with Project Leader and DPW Commissioner Noel Knille to review all project activity and expense, making recommendations to the County Executive and keeping him informed and up-to-date on the project. An External Advisory Group comprised of community leaders, business executives and subject matter experts will meet monthly to be briefed on project status and provide community feedback and suggestions to ensure the project is meeting its comprehensive goals and widespread impact. A Special Populations Workgroup will meet as well, working with our consultant to create the necessary strategies and design direction as we move forward. A Legislative Jail Advisory Committee has also been created to provide input from their respective constituencies and receive periodic updates on project status and activity.
The public will be kept informed as many of these meetings will be open to the public and special public hearing sessions will be held. In addition, meeting minutes, reports, presentations and updates will be made available on the CJC website, and email addresses made available for public comments and inquiries. Social media will be employed to allow for interaction as well. The County is committed to an open and transparent process and will endeavor to provide information and opportunity for feedback when appropriate.
This project is very complex and will require extreme diligence and meticulous attention to detail in order to reach the efficient and cost effective solution we believe is possible. Oversight costs can be reduced by lowering the correction officer to inmate ratio which is afforded through new facility design. Additionally, debt service for a new facility will likely be equal to or less than the current housing out expense and therefore we envision this project to have a very positive impact on the overall Jail budget. More importantly, a new Justice and Transition Center approach will enhance our ability to better address the rehabilitation of inmates with a positive effect on recidivism. The County Jail is a state mandate. As with all such requirements, we continuously and diligently focus on finding ways to decrease the financial impact while increasing the effectiveness of our efforts. The DCJTC Project is an excellent example of our success in this regard.