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April 18, 2019 - 4:44pm

Jail balancing bigger population, fewer corrections officers

posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, news, notify.

Despite a shortage of corrections officers, officials have been able to hold down overtime pay at the Genesee County Jail, Superintendent William Zipfel told members of the County Legislature's Public Service Committee on Wednesday.

Zipfel made his report as part of a Sheriff's Office department review with the committee.

Overtime was more than $17,500 less in the first quarter of 2019 compared to 2018, Zipfel said.

The jail is understaffed by six C.O. positions even with three C.O.'s recently completed training and two more in the pipeline.

"We're constantly doing interviews and background checks," Zipfel said when asked about filling the vacancies.

Because of the vacancies, there hasn't been jail staff available to handle inmate transports, so the task has fallen once again to deputies on road patrol.

The prison population continues to exceed the jail's capacity.  

While there has been an average of 16.16 women (who can't be held locally) incarcerated under Genesee County jurisdiction, which is about two more than last year, there has also been an increase of male prisoners who must be housed at other county jails.

The state seems to be contributing to an increase in the jail population because of new policies that have prison inmates being released on parole sooner and then being picked up on parole violations faster. Those parolees, when found in Genesee County, are held locally until transferred to state prison.

The kitchen is also turning out to be another place the jail is saving money, Zipfel said, praising head chef Bill Cultrara. He said last year in the first quarter, the jail served 20,194 meals at a cost of $30,722, or $1.52 per meal. In the first quarter this year, Cultrara and staff served 4,500 more meals but at cost of $1.15 per meal.

Older inmates, inmates with more health problems, more mental health problems, and substance abuse problems, are driving up other costs, such as prisoner transports to the hospital and other health providers.

Sheriff William Sheron told the Legislature that felony and drug cases in the first quarter were on par with 2018.

He said illegal drugs remain a concern, particularly cocaine, heroin, and LSD. He said there seems to be an increase in LSD use among high school students.

For the concert season at Darien Lake, he said one show is sold out, a few more are likely to sell out, and 17 shows of an anticipated 20 to 25 have been announced. He said he anticipates adequate law enforcement staffing for the shows.

The Sheriff's Office is also expecting the construction of a new communications tower in Attica, actually in Wyoming County, which will eliminate dead spots in Pavilion, Alexander and Darien.

Carl Szablak
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Daniel Norstrand
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More transporting of inmates to hospital is one more of the many good reasons for the shelving of the proposed, unneeded jail. Driving back and forth through what is already terrible traffic is a waste of time and resources as well as adding to other drivers headaches. The same can be said of all of the traffic that would be generated by this proposed, unneeded boondoggle. The fact that electronic monitoring is "under utilized", as quoted in the study commissioned to determine whether there is any need for this huge waste of taxpayer money, has still not been addressed. There are many other reasons to shelve. The consistent loss of population is tantamount among those.
The fact that the legislature ignores these aspects and opportunities to save the taxpayers money is suspect. It's very easy to affect the level of population in the jail to suit your agenda. The lack of maintenance on the facade of the existing facility is another type of ploy I've witnessed numerous times through the years to bolster the illusion of need for pet projects.
Numerous alternative to jail opportunities are being ignored. Opportunities that would very significantly reduce the jail population. An offsite housing facility for work release is another option that is usually paid for through monitoring fees collected from the "client". There are a number of existing, empty, nearby buildings that would be suitable for such. Please call your legislator and voice the concern that we all should harbor.

Howard B. Owens
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The one thing the Legislature can't ignore: A state mandate to build a new jail.

You keep arguing against it, Daniel, as if there was any choice or decision to be made about it.

Daniel Norstrand
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"As if there was any choice". In actuality Howard, just last month the chair of the legislature sent out a letter urging other like bodies across the state to refuse unfunded state mandates. Essentially "bucking the system." Something I have been lobbying for in the vein of this very topic and in this very publication. If the system can be bucked for one good reason, it can certainly be bucked for even better reasons. Many of which I have put forth repeatedly. Sometimes politicians take up good ideas, even when they're non-conforming.
"As if there was any choice." The people rule. The people can choose to be obedient to self serving scoundrels. Or... they can buck the system. More building, more traffic, more carbon. Every time I think about this boondoggle that will be detrimental in so many ways, I think of another reason or two, or three, as to why it is ridiculous to build it.

Howard B. Owens
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Sure, we can just decide we don't want the state to send us our share of sales tax revenue, or to end reimbursement for Medicaid, or turn our back on state aid and grants for roads and bridges and other services.

Daniel Norstrand
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If they do the things (which I've pointed out, and which are pointed out as underutilized in their own commissioned study) that are available to law enforcement to reduce the jail population, the state would have to back off. According to John Roach, who is an entrenched local political operative, the state has given us numerous extensions. I would think that such extensions were granted with some reasoning in mind. Like find other avenues to alleviate the shortcomings that were the gestation of the mandate. None of which have been put forth or acted upon. Why were they not acted upon? I can't think of a single reason, other than an unwillingness to stop their crack headed, addicted ways. I would be interested to know just how many of our legislators have been public employees. The only 2 I know much about have both been for decades each and are probably collecting retirement. Double dipping?
The state currently owes about $3150 per NY state resident, and is expected (predicted) to climb to $3550 over the next 4 years. That's not taking into account the population drain, which heaps that debt heavier on those who stay. BOONDOGGLE!! Our lawmakers need to put down the pipe, catch a ride to the nearest 1st responder station, and check themselves into rehab. Otherwise the "fam" is going to start talking intervention. The continued borrowing, ON TOP OF let me repeat, ON TOP OF the constantly rising, let me repeat, CONSTANTLY RISING TAXES we are milked is unsustainable and MUST STOP.
Another detrimental aspect of building a bigger jail is that it will make it easier to stick to the old failed blueprint of just lock em up, let em out, lock em up again etc. This is expensive and counterproductive in numerous ways. Terrible for our fiscal health, terrible for our societal health, terrible for our mental and physical health. So where is the upside? Duhhh make djobs! We already have waayyyy too many government "employees" who are basically on the dole.

david spaulding
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....." He said there seems to be an increase in LSD use among high school students. " ...... This is an easy one. All they have to do is expand the new tobacco laws that raise the legal age to 21 to purchase tobacco and vaping products to include LSD. duh! Still I find it hard to believe that student drug abuse is causing staffing and overtime issues at the Sheriff's department......I could be wrong....

Howard B. Owens
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"Still I find it hard to believe that student drug abuse is causing staffing and overtime issues at the Sheriff's department"

And where in the article does it say that?

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