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Genesee County Jail

November 22, 2021 - 10:53pm
posted by Press Release in Genesee County Jail, news.

Press release:

Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron, Jr. is reinstating visitation at the Genesee County Jail beginning noon on Tuesday, 11/23/21, for those incarcerated individuals who are NOT in quarantine.

"We appreciate your understanding while this precautionary measure was in place in order to prevent the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to incarcerated individuals' families and employees."

September 20, 2021 - 4:52pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Genesee County Jail, genesee county legislature.

Prior to the construction phase, Genesee County will need to have its four-member corrections’ officer transition team in place to write policies and procedures covering the $70 million, 184-bed county jail proposed for West Main Street Road, just east of County Building 2.

County Manager Matt Landers last week updated legislators on the progress of the jail, continuing to express confidence that groundbreaking will take place next spring.

Appointing those to be on the transition team and reviewing and approving engineering specifications are current priorities, he said.

“We’ve always known that there was going to be a jail transition team that would be responsible for writing all of the policies and procedures of the new facility, and the (New York State) COC (Commission of Correction) requires that this team be hired as soon as the first shovel is in the ground,” Landers said.

The plan is to take four current county corrections’ officers and assigning them to the transition team, and then to “backfill” the positions that would be open afterwards.

“And that’s when we would hope to increase our efforts to hire more female COs because we will be housing females in the new facility,” he advised.

Landers said Assistant Engineer Laura Wadham and Deputy Highway Superintendent Paul Osborn are poring over the drawings to make sure “everything from a technical engineering perspective is being considered on the site.”

The county is continuing the State Environmental Quality Review process, working with the SMRT architectural firm of Portland, Me.

“Hopefully we can go out to bid near the end of the year and be in position to award contracts in the spring,” Landers said, adding that the new four-pod jail would include a backup E-911 Center. Currently, that service is located in the Genesee Justice building at 14 West Main St.

The county is planning to take out a 30-year bond to pay for the jail, with annual payments estimated at $3 million to $3.5 million, Landers said.

“Interest rates are historically low right now, which is in our favor,” he said. “Plus, this (financing of the jail) is one of the reasons for the restructuring of the sales tax distribution agreement with the towns and villages so we can utilize more of that revenue to pay off the jail.”

Landers said that portions of the sales tax proceeds and reserves would go to the debt service payment.

“Over the next decade or so, we would use less and less reserves on an annual basis, and more of the sales tax as sales tax revenue grows,” he noted.

In another development, Landers today said the Genesee County Legislature will be conducting a Committee of the Whole meeting at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Old County Courthouse.

That meeting has been set up for legislators to go over the results of the 2020 Census as they pertain to population shifts in the county’s nine legislative districts.

"For us, we utilize weighted voting in Genesee County … so we have to go through the process of updating our calculations – updating the weighting of each legislative district," he said.

He said the process includes hiring a consultant to certify the results and then a public referendum on the November 2022 ballot to ratify the changes, which would take effect in January 2023.

The regular County Legislature meeting will follow the COW session.

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File photo of, clockwise from left, lobby, kitchen, dayroom, visitation area of facility similar to proposed new Genesee County Jail.

September 15, 2021 - 1:04pm
posted by Press Release in Genesee County Jail, news, covid-19, coronavirus.

Press Release:

Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron, Jr. announces that inmate visitation resumes at the Genesee County Jail effective today. 

Comments
August 24, 2021 - 9:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news, covid-19, coronavirus.

Press release:

Due to Covid cases within the Genesee County Jail, Sheriff William A. Sheron, Jr. is suspending all inmate visitations effective immediately until further notice. This is a precautionary measure to prevent the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to inmates’ families and employees.  

Comments
July 19, 2021 - 8:46pm

Next Wednesday, July 28th, is shaping up as round three in Genesee County’s attempt to get a grip on the size and cost of the new county jail it has been mandated to build by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

At the end of the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee meeting today at the Old County Courthouse conference room, County Manager Matt Landers said he has received an updated 10-page bed study from the SMRT architectural firm of Portland, Me.

Landers said he plans to go over the report at a meeting of the full legislature next week, and expects to have a revised cost estimate from the Pike Company of Rochester at that time as well.

“We’ve done this twice before,” Landers said. “Going back three or four years, the legislature gave me a thumbs-up, and probably two years ago when we were getting a better handle on the costs, I did it again and got the legislature to agree to $60 million. We were all in agreement – thumbs up.”

Calling the coming session a “good gut check,” Landers said it will be the first time that two new legislators – Brooks Hawley and Chad Klotzbach – will get to hear the full scope of the project.

Genesee County has been conducting its due diligence on the construction of a 184-bed jail on land just east of County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

Landers is hoping that $60 million figure is still in play, but things could change in this post-COVID environment.

“Now, we’re in a different world, COVID, numbers, everything. So, once again we need to make sure everyone is on board for whatever cost estimates are before us,” he said. “The next thumbs up is going to dictate preparing our bid documents and going out to bid sometime in the spring. If cost estimates are two or three times (what we budgeted for), we’d have to stop and wait.”

He noted that SMRT reported that the 184-bed number is still intact, but even that isn’t etched in stone.

“We all know that the state is taking a left turn, to a degree, with social justice reforms,” he said. “Is that the way it’s going to be for awhile or is there going to be a pendulum swing, using the sheriff’s (William Sheron) words. But how much of one?”

Another factor is whether the state will allow those sentenced for one or two years to be kept in county jail.

“Now, if it’s longer than a year, you’re sentenced to state prison,” Landers said. “The state, using the mantra of social justice and to save money, may decide to shift these people and keep them in (county) jails, which meets their argument of keeping them closer to their families.”

WHAT ABOUT THE CURRENT JAIL BUILDING?

When asked if it was possible to sell the current jail in tandem with the sale of the City of Batavia police station building, Landers said it was “an interesting concept but there a lot of pieces that would have to work together.”

“It’s going to take longer to build a jail than it’s going to take to build a police station. We’re not going to be out of the current jail for two or three years and that’s if there are no cost overruns and we are ready to go in the spring,” he said.

Landers also mentioned that Genesee Justice and the backup 9-1-1 center are housed in the jail building.

“We have to make sure we have the ability to move all of that out into a new location. All of that has to happen,” he said. “And to tie that with the city. They may be waiting on us, and we’re still not out.

“Timing is everything. If everything tied up and we wanted to sell it, maybe it would work, but we have as part of our contract with SMRT a dedicated study to see what we could use the current jail building for in the future.”

The county manager said he has thought about using the jail portion of the building at West Main Street and Porter Avenue as a countywide records’ center.

“I have been thinking that it could be a shared services model because all of these towns have permanent records,” he offered. “We could take a jail cell and say ‘Town of Byron, here’s your permanent records'; 'Town of Bergen, here’s your permanent records’ and actually have a centralized shared service project where all the records from the county come to one area.”

July 13, 2021 - 8:23am

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A frequent contributor to the Batavia City Council scene is suggesting that a package deal combining the current Batavia Police Department headquarters and Genesee County Jail parcels may be the ticket to attracting a potential developer in light of the city’s intention to build a new police station at Alva Place and Bank Street.

City resident John Roach, during the public comments portion of the board’s Conference Meeting on Monday night at the City Centre, asked if anyone was talking to Genesee County leaders about their plan for the jail at the corner of West Main Street and Porter Avenue.

The county is exploring its options as it faces a state mandate to build a new jail, with a site near County Building 2 on West Main Street Road as the proposed location.

“You might get a better deal as a combined parcel,” Roach said. “Find out what they’re going to do and it could have an impact on what to do with the Brisbane building.”

The Brisbane building that he referred to is the former Brisbane Mansion at 10 W. Main St. that sits next door to the county jail. That building -- which may be eligible for classification as a historic landmark -- has housed city police for many years but has deteriorated considerably.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, responding to Roach’s inquiry, said she thought it was a “great idea to speak with the county and understand their plans.”

“The front of the jail is certainly an amazing historic building that I hope would be preserved by the county through their transition, but I believe it hosts Genesee Justice and I don’t want to speak for the county and I’m not sure what they’re actually planning,” she said.

Tabelski also said she wasn’t sure if the timelines for a new county jail and new city police station would line up, but it was something worth looking into.

She pointed out the drawbacks with the Brisbane Mansion, notably that there is no American with Disabilities Act accessibility and there are problems with the layout that hinder the ability of the force to conduct day-to-day business.

“We went over the presentation two meetings ago and we looked at the timeline. The city has been wanting to address this for over 20 years,” she said. “We’ve come forward with a proposal and a feasibility study to use the parking lot at Alva and Bank Street.”

The city manager underscored the importance of finding a “reuse” for the building, adding that the city has no intention of moving staff into that structure.

“So, we’d like to pursue a path where we put it out for RFP to a developer to take that on and bring that on to the tax rolls,” she advised. “To do that in the best manner possible, you want to make your property attractive to the marketplace and by understanding all of the historical elements inside the building, and having technical assistance reports done of the structure itself and the historical elements …”

For those reasons, she forwarded a resolution – which was later passed by Council – to allow the Batavia Development Corp. to apply for a 2021 Consolidated Funding grant under the New York Main Street technical assistance program.

“I think it is City Council’s wish and I know it is the certainly the wish of many in our community to preserve that building as a historical element in our downtown,” she said. “… if (the grant is) awarded, we would go ahead and do that study. We had a plan to reuse the building at the time we move the police department.”

Tabelski said that the grant-funded study would uncover whether the building would qualify as a historic landmark.

If so, that could open the door for a NY Main Street grant, which the city has been successful in obtaining for the Eli Fish Brewing Co. building on Main Street and Theater 56 at the City Centre.

On another topic, Roach asked about the status of a road project to rehabilitate Harvester and Richmond avenues, which is scheduled for the summer of 2022.

Maintenance Supervisor Ray Tourt said it is currently in the design phase.

In May 2020, City Council appointed the engineering firm of T.Y. Lin International Group of Rochester to provide preliminary and advanced designs with the expectation that they would be completed by the summer of this year.

T.Y. Lin International Group was involved in the city’s Walnut Street Reconstruction Project, the Ellicott Street streetscape project and all of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District streetscape initiatives.

Batavian Robert Radley, PE, is the company’s senior vice president and U.S. East Region director.

Plans call for renovation of Richmond Avenue from State Street to Oak Street and for the entire length of Harvester Avenue (from East Main Street to Ellicott Street). City officials previously reported that 95 percent of the $2 million project will be covered by CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) and Marchiselli Funding* streams.

Tabelski also reported that Jill Wiedrick, the new assistant city manager, will be starting on July 21, and the city is advertising for a permanent Department of Public Works director.

*Given the significant backlog of preservation, rehabilitation and replacement of transportation infrastructure needs that exist at the local level, NYSDOT has initiated a process with metropolitan planning areas and municipalities to revise and align local transportation planning and project selection processes with engineering and economic-based preservation strategies. As part of this initiative, NYSDOT will provide priority consideration for State matching funds, under the Marchiselli program, to federal-aid projects that embrace the Department’s asset management based preservation strategy. Municipally sponsored federal-aid projects considered to be beyond preservation treatments may be considered for Marchiselli funding on a case by case basis. Municipal requests for projects that are considered beyond preservation will be reviewed by NYSDOT’s Comprehensive Program Team (CPT).

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Photo at top: Batavia Police Department station (former Brisbane Mansion); Photo at bottom: Front of Genesee County Jail, which currently houses Genesee Justice.

June 15, 2021 - 1:30pm

Sixteen months ago, Genesee County Manager Matt Landers observed that because of bail reform in New York, it was the “worst time in state history to be building a jail … but it must be built.”

Well, since that time, the COVID-19 pandemic hit society extremely hard – resulting in staggering increases in construction costs – while the legislation that eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony offenses remains in place despite calls throughout the state to “reform the reform laws.”

On Monday afternoon, Landers updated county legislators of the municipality’s state-mandated obligation to construct a new jail, expressing the view that it may be difficult to get under the $60 million price tag for a 184-bed jail on property just east of County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

“We rely on experts that do build jails across the county and rely on trends and speak to the interested parties in the community to better understand how large a jail to build,” he said. “It behooves us to take a step back and make sure we update this study. And although it is less than four years old, a lot has happened in four years.”

Landers said that a revised report from Pike Company, project construction manager, is nearly finished.

“I have been told that we are days out from getting a draft of it, and then we will study it and bring it to the attention of the legislature for review before we finalize a report,” he advised. “At the same time, there was a smaller meeting of consultants (with county management) to try to get a timeline established of what a restart would look like.”

He said if the county is to make “meaningful moves forward, we really need to understand what kind of costs we’re looking at for the jail.”

Previously, legislators supported a budget of $60 million.

Landers said that “estimates had us right around there – maybe a shade over.”

“So, when we put this on pause (due to the pandemic), we were working really hard to shave it to get under that $60 million goal the legislature had put in place,” he said.

Landers said he had approved having SMRT, an architectural firm out of Portland, Me., do a cost estimate of the final design, based on 184 beds, with the understanding that the county might lop off cells in increments of eight if necessary. He said he expects to receive that report, including the amount of cost savings by reducing the number of beds, in two to three weeks.

When that report is finalized, Landers said that Graham Vickers, principal/director of justice practice for SMRT, will appear before the legislature to go over it and answer questions.

“The cost of the jail may drive additional decisions,” he said, adding that questions being asked now focus on whether to wait for construction prices to come down before relaunching the project.

Landers said that Vickers indicated restarting in July and putting it out to bid in the fall.

“That would be the ideal timeframe where we could have our project out there for bidding before companies are already set up for the following year,” he said.

Landers said a major reason for the update is the fluctuation in jail population in the county over the past two years.

He reported that currently the county is responsible for 50 inmates with six of those females being housed outside of the county. By comparison, there were 141 inmates in June 2019. At that time, the thought was that a 184-bed jail was the right size. Now, the thinking is that it could be too big.

Landers said the county’s plan to partner with Orleans County is on hold, but Genesee can’t afford to delay the project.

“What we can do is move forward with the jail and be a viable option at some point in the future if Orleans wanted to partner with us …,” he said.

He said recently the idea of adding a backup 9-1-1 center at the new jail – a 20-foot by 20-foot space that would accommodate two dispatchers – came to light, with the possibility of obtaining a grant to fund it.

In closing, Landers said much depends on what happens to the bail reform laws – whether further legislation is passed to give judges more discretion in remanding those accused of a crime to jail.

“Everything swings back and forth, but with the state legislature controlled by one party, I don’t see it swinging too far back,” he said.

County Sheriff William Sheron, who also was on the Zoom call, said he thinks otherwise.

“I believe the pendulum will come back,” he said. “People are reoffending and reoffending … it’s just a matter of time.”

April 29, 2021 - 9:22am

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The Genesee County Legislature on Wednesday issued a proclamation designating May 2-8 as National Correctional Officers' Week.

Taking part in the presentation at the Old County Courthouse were, from left, County Jail Superintendent William Zipfel; Legislator Marianne Clattenburg; Jail Corrections' officers Marissa Jacques, Michael Cox and John Garlock; Undersheriff Bradley Mazur, and Sheriff William Sheron.

The proclamation read, in part, that the legislature "wishes to acknowledge the difficult job we ask these correction officers to perform, locked within a facility for a large part of their day where they must securely, safely and humanely keep those committed to the jail, respecting the rights and dignity of all inmates ..."

Sheron commended the work of the jail staff, stating, "they went through hell this past year (in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic) and came through with flying colors."

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

January 28, 2021 - 8:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news, batavia.

Press release:

Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. reports that an inmate has died after attempting suicide at the Genesee County Jail on Jan. 4.

A Genesee County Correction officer found the 28-year-old inmate hanging from a shower curtain rod at approximately 12:27 p.m., Jan. 4, while making routine rounds. The Correction officer immediately summoned assistance and began performing life-saving measures. The inmate was transported by ambulance to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo where he passed away on Thursday, Jan. 14.

The inmate is identified as Kyle Adam Scheuerlein, of Batavia, NY. He had been incarcerated on bail in the Genesee County Jail since Jan. 1, following his arrest by the City of Batavia Police Department on the charges of second-degree burglary and criminal contempt - disobeying a court order in the second degree.

An investigation into this incident is being conducted by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the NYS Commission of Corrections.

November 4, 2020 - 9:14pm

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Supported by an audience of department heads and legislators, first-year Genesee County Matt Landers tonight formally presented the municipality’s 2021 proposed budget, a $142,953,227 all funds spending plan drafted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It increases the tax levy by $400,069 but lowers the property tax rate by 31 cents per thousand of assessed value.

No one from the public signed up to speak at the budget hearing at the Old County Courthouse.

That left it to Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein to credit management and departmental leaders for being able to “flex and pivot” to develop a budget that doesn’t override the New York State tax cap, and to Landers to summarize – or “Landerize” as he put it – the path that got the county to this point and set a course heading into 2021.

“It certainly was a challenge to put together a 140-plus million dollar budget in a pandemic, but here we are today able to present a balanced budget that is under the tax cap,” he said.

Aided by PowerPoint slides, Landers presented the following key dollar amounts and percentages for 2021:

  • Recommended All Funds Budget is $142,953,227; a decrease of $759,766 or .53 percent;
  • Recommended General Fund Budget is $110,241,924, a decrease of $3,767,378 or 3.30 percent;
  • Recommended Property Tax Levy is $31,451,727, an increase of $400,069 or 1.28 percent;
  • Tax Rate Decrease from $10.11 to $9.80, approximately 3.06 percent;
  • Recommended Fund Balance Usage of $2,334,857, an increase of $534,822 from 2020 adopted budget.

Although the tax levy is going up, the tax rate is going down due to an increase in the county’s assessment.

To illustrate the property tax impact, Landers showed a slide depicting the median residential household in Genesee County with an assessed value of $106,800. It revealed that the 31-cent tax rate decrease amounts to a decrease of $33.11 in property taxes, assuming no assessment increase.

Barring any last minute adjustments by the legislature, the budget as it currently sits is scheduled to be adopted on Nov. 23.

Landers outlined several parameters that needed to be followed before his team, that included Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer and Executive Assistant Vicky Muckle, could dive into the numbers. Those instructions were to keep county support to the various departments “flat,” hold the line on contributions to outside agencies and funding of Genesee Community College, taking a team approach and, per the legislature’s wishes, not overriding the tax cap.

“It was a consensus that we would not be cutting them (outside agencies) but we would be at flat funding, which in itself is asking a lot of some of these agencies that are feeling the same budgetary constraints and costs and COVID-related items that we are,” Landers said. “So, I was pleased that they would accept flat funding, and most were appreciative that we did not cut them.”

He said it was a difficult decision to not increase funding to GCC, which he called “an excellent economic engine” in the county.

Landers also mentioned other factors, some triggered by COVID-19, that carried much weight in the formation of the budget, notably word out of Albany of a 20-percent reduction in state aid for most programs, double-digit increases in health care and retirement costs, $23 million in yearly state mandated services provided by the county – “with no end in sight,” he said – plus a 10- to 15-percent loss in sales tax revenue and decrease in projected interest earnings.

In response to these challenges, Landers pointed out he used more of the unexpended fund balance that he was anticipating and hopes that the county will be able to replenish it over time. He gave credit to former County Manager Jay Gsell for implementing a strategic hiring freeze, furloughing employees and deferring capital projects as the pandemic took hold.

The county also made the decision to reduce its revenue sharing with towns and villages, with Landers stating that the previous agreement was “unsustainable” in this current economy.

On the bright side, Landers said this allowed the county to increase its budget for infrastructure by $1 million next year -- $900,000 for bridges and culverts and $100,000 for roads -- a benefit that will “lessen the blow” to towns and villages because "that money will be going into their communities."

He said the budget also calls for the creation of three full-time positions (a dispatcher and two human resources employees) and a part-time person to assist the veterans service coordinator.

Looking forward, Landers said the focus will be on six areas:

  • Sales Tax Revenues;
  • Status of a Federal Stimulus Package;
  • Status of State Aid Reductions;
  • Status of COVID-19 and a Hopeful Vaccine;
  • Effects of Bail Reform on Jail Population;
  • State Allowing Possible Joint Jail with Orleans County.

“The (new) Genesee County Jail, pre-COVID, was the biggest story going on – right up there with water (the county’s water project),” he said. “It will be getting started shortly … as a consolidation effort with Orleans County.”

At the present time, state law prohibits joint county jails, but Landers said he his hopeful that the governor could change his position in his 2021-22 budget.

Landers acknowledged that legislators could make some “tweaks” to the budget before stating “that it is in the legislature’s hands now.”

Stein closed the session by saying the legislature is determined to fund the operations of this county, adding that the manager’s and budget office “door is open” for people to express their feelings.

“We are here to serve with you and for you,” she said.

Photo: Genesee County Manager Matt Landers at tonight's budget public hearing at the Old County Courthouse. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

June 16, 2020 - 4:08pm

A partnership with Orleans County may be the key that unlocks the door leading to the construction of a new $60 million Genesee County Jail to be located just east of County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

“Here’s an opportunity for an efficient, 21st century, state-of-the-art jail that is ready to go. We have the designs … we have willing partners to the north and in Genesee County, so we hope that it is something he (Gov. Andrew Cuomo) is willing to get behind.”

Those were the words of Assistant County Manager Matt Landers, reporting on the progress – or lack thereof due to the coronavirus – of the proposed 184-bed jail during a Genesee County Legislature “Committee of the Whole” meeting Monday via Zoom videoconferencing.

Landers said he is hopeful that state laws prohibiting a shared jail could be alleviated and that Cuomo would see the benefit of such an arrangement – one that lines up with the governor’s call to reinvent the way local government operates.

“(Cuomo) had in his budget some easing of the laws, restrictions that made it difficult to have any kind of coordination with jails in the state, but that didn’t make it to the final budget,” Landers explained. “Seeing that there are talks of a potential (federal) stimulus 4 package out there that may have a large infrastructure component to it, this could be something that could be attractive.

“It meets a lot of the benchmarks .. that you’d think the governor would be interested in. It is something that he is continually harping on – reimagining New York and how we do business.”

Along with looking at new ways to facilitate services in line with Albany’s wishes, the meeting focused on five other pertinent areas:

-- Shared jail housing opportunity;
-- Maintenance of the current jail;
-- Cost of boarding out inmates if current jail was closed;
-- Status of activity on new jail:
-- Impact of bail reform, social justice on jail population.

SHARED JAIL HOUSING OPPORTUNITY

According to Landers, who is cochairing the jail steering committee with County Sheriff William Sheron, officials from Orleans County are willing to team with Genesee to explore the possibility of a joint facility.

“Building a new jail with the opportunity to do that with a partner up north – that’s where we’re focusing our energy and efforts right now,” he said. “It’s going to rely heavily what Albany allows and what kind of funding comes out of stimulus 4 on the infrastructure side and what kind of funding comes out of Albany.”

A shared jail could lead to increased efficiency in the delivery of services, with technology likely to stay in play, Landers said, noting the current use of Skype and other video and teleconferencing software.

County Public Defender Jerry Ader said he foresees legislation to allow for a greater use of electronics for proceedings, but “it may take a while and it may not be as much of a cost-savings as we’re led to believe.”

“Right now, our jail is across the street and other than maybe bringing an inmate from the prison, which is a state cost, or if we have female inmates in jails outside the county, which might be some savings, I don’t think you’re going to get the savings you’re expecting just on electronics … that’s just my opinion,” he said.

Landers mentioned that with a new jail, “there’s probably less opportunity for that (type of) savings because it’s not going to be that difficult to transport people from the jail right here in Batavia (compared to having to transport from other parts of the state as has been the case).”

MAINTENANCE OF THE CURRENT JAIL

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said the county will be unable to avoid ongoing expenses (repairs and renovations connected to safety and mandated services) to keep the current jail in the City of Batavia going for, what could be, another three to five years.

In a discussion with the Public Service Committee last month, Hens said that $3.5 million worth of projects at the 40-year-old jail are on the punch list for the next five years if the county is forced to hold off on the new jail.

Concerning the new jail, Hens said to expect a 30-percent increase – or $50,000 -- in his facility maintenance budget to run a facility of that size, and a similar percentage add-on as the cost of doing business in New York State.

COST OF BOARDING OUT INMATES

Sheron said that the state Commission on Corrections recognizes that the county is in a “pause period” and has not indicated it would shut down the current jail.

But in case that did happen, the going rate to house out inmates is $100 per inmate, Landers said.

“It would be sizeable cost on an annual basis if we were forced to do this, if we had a population of 50 or more, but at the same time there would be the opposite cost of running a jail that would help offset that cost,” Landers said.

The assistant county manager noted the good working relationship among the COC, sheriff’s department and the architects and engineers involved with the project, so, “we would have significant lead time if there’s anything brewing that we need to be concerned about to start planning for.”

STATUS OF ACTIVITIES ON NEW JAIL

As indicated, the new jail project is in a holding pattern, but the county has closed on the land acquisition, and the schematic designs of the jail are complete, Landers said.

He said the county has two contracts in force – one with SMRT, the design firm, for about $2.3 million and one with Pike Company Inc., the construction manager, for around $1 million.

Both SMRT and Pike are aware of the county’s plight and “looking forward to getting back to work on this project, just as we are,” Landers said.

To date, the county has spent more than $1 million on the contracts, which are being funded by established jail reserves built up by proceeds of the former county nursing home sale and higher than expected sales tax receipts in 2018, Landers reported.

“We have reserves of about four to five million dollars (the number is around $8 million when considering the jail reserve fund) that are going to be used in the short term to fund these contracts until we get long-term debt financing,” he said. “Once the long-term debt financing comes in, it will cover these contracts and replenish that reserve. So, we need that full reserve to help get through what we are calling the Delta period.”

Landers said that the financing plan has been “blown out of the water by COVID-19” since it was expected to use an increase in sales tax proceeds starting in 2020 to fund the debt service payment on the new jail.

IMPACT OF BAIL REFORM ON POPULATION

Landers said recent changes to the original bail reform laws could result in an increase in jail population, but it’s too early to tell how much as courts remained closed.

Jail Superintendent William Zipfel reported that approximately 90 sentencings have been put off, and predicted that 30 to 45 percent of those people may receive jail time.

“The issue with that is, from district court, they won’t be doing sentencing for in-custody people until sometime in July, but they are starting to sentence people who are not in custody – and won’t have jail time built up,” he said. “I’m guessing our population sometime before this fall is going to come back up that 50 or so level at least.”

Landers said the county jail population in July 2019 was at the level we expected to be at in 2042,” he said. “Going back a year ago, there were concerns that we were building a jail that would be too small because our sizing had grown to what we were projecting in 2042.”

Today, the jail population is at 36, including one female who is housed in Wyoming County.

“This significant volatility is just another reason why -- until we have a clearer picture -- that we’re taking a pause in the timing,” he said.

May 19, 2020 - 11:27am

Genesee County legislators, governmental leaders and law enforcement personnel are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to sinking money into the existing County Jail on West Main Street while a $60 million new jail project remains on hold.

Members of the Public Service Committee, maintenance department heads and jail officials engaged in a 30-minute Zoom videoconferencing discussion on Monday, with everyone, at debate’s end, agreeing to spend only what is necessary to keep the current jail functioning at acceptable levels.

 “If the new jail is deferred for any length of time, relative to revenue problems, we have an existing facility that we basically have been duct-taping and bailing twine together for the last couple years with the expectation that we’d have a new facility in its place,” said Tim Hens, county highway superintendent who also oversees capital projects.

Hens said that $3.5 million worth of projects at the 40-year-old jail are “in the can” for the next five years if the county is forced to slam the brakes on the 184-bed, four-pod state-mandated new jail that was moving at full speed ahead in February – just a month before the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head.

He said that replacement and/or repair of the heating/cooling system, fire protection/sprinkler system and plumbing top the list of items that need to be addressed, estimating the “high priority stuff” at $1.5 million.

“And that’s just looking at the jail, the rear portion of the building. This doesn’t consider the Genesee Justice and the front end of the building, which has its own issues and problems,” he said. “There is easily three quarters of a million dollars that you can put on the front end of the building just from a cosmetic stonework standpoint.”

Operationally, things could become much more expensive should the New York State Commission of Correction (COC) require Genesee County to start housing females at the jail, said Hens, noting that he has had talks with Sheriff William Sheron about that possibility.

“The operational change to do that would be very, very costly. I don’t even know how you begin to peel that off. You’d probably have to do another study. You’d have to parcel out a floor for females versus males, there would be significant capital change to adjust how the jail operates,” he said.

At this time, the jail population consists of 32 men and one woman (who is being held at a neighboring county jail).

Sheron said that extensive renovations would have to be made to the interior of the jail and that programming and compliance changes would need to be implemented to accommodate the female population.

“What that would entail at this point?” he asked. “I estimate millions of dollars to do that.”

Legislator Andrew Young inquired if any word had come down from the COC or anywhere else about directing the county to house female prisoners.

Jail Superintendent William Zipfel answered that one of the reasons for a new jail is so the county could “bring female inmates back into our own jurisdiction.”

“They’ve already taken our variance away for males and weekenders and it’s only a matter of time, I feel, before that will go away for females, and they’ll say, ‘Well, population is down and you’ll have to house them there,’ ” Zipfel said. “I have every reason to believe it will happen if things continue the way they are. I don’t have any reason to believe it won’t.”

Dialogue on putting money into the old jail continued with legislators Gary Maha and Marianne Clattenburg and Zipfel agreeing to not put good money after bad, except for maintenance that needs to be done for safety reasons and to avoid a temporary shutdown of the current jail.

Clattenburg suggested calling a special meeting of all the legislators.

“If we’re going to put money into a jail that we’re not going to use much longer, I think that Legislator Stein might want to make that a Committee of the Whole discussion,” she said.

Hens recommended continuing the design of the new jail to have it ready to receive some favorable bids when legislators get more clarity on their revenue stream.

“You’re going to have some hungry contractors out there chomping at the bit since the private construction has basically been locked down for quite a while now and probably will be for the foreseeable future,” he reasoned.

Assistant County Manager Matt Landers, who is spearheading the new jail plan, said the design of the project is complete.

“We’re there for a four-pod, 184-bed jail; we’re there with the design and ready to go,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of when the dust settles to see that’s going to be what we’re moving forward with. And we’ll continue to have discussions with our regional partners.”

Landers added that county officials have built a solid relationship with the state and that COC officials would understand that “we’re at a reasonable place” with the design and haven’t abandoned the project.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said this is an instance where the county can act upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plea to “reimagine government -- and especially in regard to this incredible cost of the jail project.”

“If we can’t move forward with talking about and demonstrating an opportunity for us to do a shared services model with the jail, we’re missing the boat as far as I am concerned,” she said. “We also need to fully understand what the new impact of social just reforms that went through this last budget that none of us have really talked about because we’ve all been talking about COVID and that’s where our focus has been.”

Deputy Highway Superintendent Paul Osborn then wrapped things up with a punch list of maintenance items at the current jail that could pop up in the coming months – two boilers in the basement (estimated at $20,000 per boiler to replace), an old generator (with renting one an option should it stop working), kitchen hood system ($4,500) and replacement of copper pipe in the sewer system.

May 3, 2020 - 5:19pm

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Above, from left: Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr., C.O. Michael A. Cox, C.O. Adam C. Snow, Senior C.O. James M. Smart, Jail Superintendent William A. Zipfel, C.O. Trevor J. Sherwood, C.O. Christopher L. Seelbinder, C.O. Lewis A. Henning, C.O. Anthony J. Ridder, Undersheriff Bradley D. Mazur.

Submitted photos and press release:

On May 5, 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first full week of May would be observed as National Correctional Officers’ Week in recognition of the important role these officers play in our criminal justice system.

The position of Correctional Officer, once considered merely that of a “guard,” has become increasingly more complex and demanding, involving simultaneously custodial, supervisory, rehabilitation, and counseling roles, and that complexity continues to grow.

In the year 2020, Correctional Officers continue to play that vital role, but in an ever more stressful environment due to the current pandemic sweeping our nation and the world.

This week acknowledges the difficult job Correction Officers perform, locked within a facility for a large part of their day where they must securely, safely and humanely keep those committed to the jail, respecting the rights and dignity of all the inmates, including those who have been found guilty and those only awaiting adjudication.

Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr., along with the Genesee County Legislature, recognize these public safety professionals for their continued dedication, professionalism and commitment to public service.

The Genesee County Legislature issued a proclamation at its April 22 meeting recognizing May 3 – 9, 2020, as National Correctional Officers’ Week. The lights on the Old County Courthouse cupola will be changed to red, white and blue to acknowledge this week.

“The important and difficult role Correctional Officers fulfill is not always recognized by the general public,” Sheriff Sheron said. “If you know a Correctional Officer, please join me in thanking these men and women for their exceptional service.”

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Above, in the forefront: C.O. Philip A. Mangefrida; back row, from left: Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr., Senior C.O. Peter M. Hoy, C.O. Austin J. Davis, C.O. Kelly P. Creegan, C.O. Michael F. Lindsley, C.O. Daniel J. Renz, C.O. Brian M. Manley, C.O. Cody D. NiCastro, Undersheriff Bradley D. Mazur.

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Above, in the forefront, Jail Superintendent William A. Zipfel. Second row, from left: Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr., C.O. Jason M. Buck, C.O. Marissa R. Jacques, C.O. Dennis J. Bartholomew, C.O. Tyler J. Stewart, C.O. Matthew M. Luce, C.O. John P. Garlock, C.O. Jared T. Swimline, C.O. Jenna R. Barber, C.O. Kevin P. Thomas. Back row, from left: C.O. Seth C. Rademacker, Senior C.O. Jason R. Queal, C.O. Michael A. Strumpf, C.O. Susan A. Mattice, Senior C.O. Caleb C. Chaya, C.O. Tyler M. Tambe, Undersheriff Bradley D. Mazur, Senior C.O. Matthew R. Burgett.

March 12, 2020 - 10:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in coronavirus, COVID-19, news, Genesee County Jail.

Press release:

Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. announced this morning that he is suspending all inmate visitation at the Genesee County Jail. This will take effect tomorrow morning, Friday, March 13, until further notice.

This is a precautionary measure to prevent the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to employees, inmates and families.  

NOTE: If your group or agency is canceling or postponing an event, email [email protected]. We'll compile a list, post it, and keep it updated.

February 19, 2020 - 10:44pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Genesee County Jail, Commission of Corrections.

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While acknowledging a high degree of uncertainty brought about by New York’s new bail reform laws, Genesee County officials – working hand-in-hand with consultants, engineers and architects experienced in correction facilities – are moving ahead with their plan to build a state-mandated 184-bed jail on property just east of County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

“It’s the worst time in New York State history to be building a jail … but it must be built,” said Matt Landers, assistant county manager, referring to the state’s recently passed legislation that has eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony offenses, thus reducing the number of those charged with a crime who are remanded to jail.

Landers, cochair of the jail committee along with Sheriff William Sheron, was speaking at tonight’s public information session at the Old County Courthouse about the proposed $60 million project.

Approximately 40 people, including county legislators, jail committee members and interested citizens, attended.

Landers and Rod Miller, president of CRS Inc. (Community Resource Services) of Gettysburg, Pa., a consulting firm that specializes in the correction and detention fields, agreed that the changes to how bail is applied have created a dilemma when it comes to projecting jail housing requirements.

Already, the new laws, which took effect on Jan. 1, have resulted in a downsizing of the new county jail from 214 beds (originally), then 200 beds – each with five pods – to 184 beds with four pods.

“They are the most extensive set of laws passed in the country,” Miller said, noting that California also is in the process of bail reform but not “as extensive” as New York’s. “We’re trying to anticipate the impact and that’s been very difficult. It’s kind of a crap shoot; there’s no question it will reduce jail population.”

Still, the county is obligated to replace its current jail at the corner of West Main Street and Porter Avenue.

Built in 1902 (with an addition/renovation in 1985), the jail is not conducive to effective supervision, has inadequate space for services and programs, and does not have the capacity to house female inmates – a situation that costs the county hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to transport these women to other jails, Miller explained.

“The current jail deficiencies are pretty well documented,” Miller said, adding that the county is liable no matter where inmates are housed and must abide by strict state Commission of Corrections standards that cover safety, security, separation, conditions of confinement, and medical and mental health care.

In reality, the COC is driving the bus, so to speak, toward the erection of a new jail.

“The COC decides how jails operate and the capacity of the facility,” Miller said. “They had to approve the number of beds.”

The COC also requires all cells to be single occupancy – “a big impact here on the design (and accompanying cost),” he said – and “direct supervision” management of inmates, again a safe but costly proposition.

“Costs increased 20 or more percent per square foot due to the strict requirements,” Miller said, “and that is borne by the county.”

Previously, Landers submitted a budget for the project that shows actual construction costs at $49.7 million. The price tag increases to $60 million when adding in design, furnishing, bonds and insurance, construction management, planning and development, and unexpected costs.

County officials said the jail will be funded by bonds that will be paid back by sales tax revenue that has been shifted away from towns and villages per a new state-approved sales tax agreement. They also said that jail construction will not result in a property tax hike.

Miller pointed to the contribution of the county’s Criminal Justice Advisory Council, which helped all parties in assessing future population trends and housing needs.

“We had access to their monthly meeting and had plenty of discussions,” he said. “CJAC represents all facets (of criminal justice and law enforcement) and is a model for other communities.”

Explaining that the “number of admissions does not correlate to the number of beds used,” Miller said that after three days, 47.9 percent of inmates have been released, after using only 1.6 percent of the total beds. Furthermore, 73 percent of all inmates are gone within 30 days, having used just 13 percent of the annual beds.

“The three days (data) is the target of the bail reform laws,” he said, “and it is very tough to figure out the impact of bail reform in the long term.”

He also emphasized that the new jail will have a specific area for “central arraignment” and processing – a cost-saving measure – and is likely to take in inmates who formerly might have been headed to state prisons.

Most importantly, Miller said, the new jail will provide sufficient female beds, house detainees who present substance abuse problems, and provide a secure treatment facility and acceptable short-term holding and separation.

He did mention the possibility of a regional jail, noting that there are 130 of these types of facilities in the United States, but said that although “they make a lot of sense in principle, it is hard to find a solution that works for all parties. It is not a viable solution right now.”

Following Miller’s presentation, Graham Vickers, principal/director of justice practice for SMRT, an architectural firm out of Portland, Maine, gave an overview of the site plan.

“We have been working with the (Genesee County) group since 2017 and are 50 percent through the design,” he said, adding that they’re shooting to break ground this September.

Vickers said the building will consist of a front portion for staffing and programming and a back section of four separate rectangular structures behind.

He termed a space dedicated for arraignments as a “unique feature” that will limit travel expense and security issues.

“The jail has an internally driven design … which considers those who work there and those who are detained (first),” he said.

He also noted that there will be “educational spaces” for religious or classroom teaching, with the day room built with a safety as a priority.

The day rooms are being built with an emphasis on safety, he said. Landers added that the dayrooms in each pod are designed in such a way that one corrections officer will be able to oversee up to 52 inmates, making them "much more efficient."

Landers said the new jail is being constructed with a life expectancy of 50 to 100 years. He applauded his committee for its hard work.

“We did our best to analyze the data and trends, believing that they will start emptying the state (prison) population into our jail,” he said. “We spent the last three years of analysis … without having a crystal ball (to decide what is) best for the future.”

At the end of the formal presentation, two Batavia residents offered their opinions and asked some questions.

Ron Greer, former Genesee County Jail superintendent, said “you’re going to have a hard sell (with the public),” directing his comments to county legislators.

He said that he hoped that the county could generate revenue right away – and not a year down the road – by housing females.

Still, he acknowledged the county has the responsibility of taking care of all who are sent to jail.

John Roach asked what the plan was for the current jail, suggesting that the city may be abandoning the building next door (the current City police headquarters) in the near future.

Landers said SMRT has been charged with providing possible solutions, but no decision has been made yet.

Roach also asked if the new building considered the disabled – it does meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, Vickers said – and if juveniles would be kept there. Sheron replied juveniles would be housed somewhere else.

As far as double-bunking is concerned, Roach said, “they have that in Attica. It’s OK for them but not OK for you.”

It also was pointed out that the design’s infrastructure (such as heating/cooling and kitchen) is in place to handle the addition of two pods if necessary, and that the county will need to hire more corrections officers and support staff.

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Photo at top -- Rod Miller and Graham Vickers; photos at bottom, various views of the proposed new county jail -- floor plan, dayroom and similar facility. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

February 22, 2019 - 11:28am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, jail, news, notify.

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County officials are ready to move ahead with plans for a new Genesee County Jail, which begins with hiring an architectural firm to help plan and design it and hiring a general contractor to oversee its construction. The new jail could be located on land already owned by the county next to County Building #2 on West Main Street Road, Batavia.

The County Legislature is expected to pass two resolutions next week to move the plan forward. One will authorize spending $2.5 million from the county's building and infrastructure fund, and the other will authorize a contract with SMRT Architects and Engineers PC, of Latham.

Approval of the resolutions was recommended this week by both the Public Service Committee on Tuesday (photo above with Asst. County Manager Matt Landers and Sheriff William Sheron seated at the conference table) and the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.

Landers told the Ways and Means Committee that the county has yet to establish the actual cost of the new jail. That will be determined by the review and consulting process with SMRT Architects, who will also assist in hiring a construction manager, who will also assist in estimating the cost.

Once a cost is established, the county can seek bond financing, and once the bond is approved, the $2.5 million from the reserve fund will be reimbursed to that fund.

If, after site review, SMRT does find the site next to County Building #2 suitable for a jail, the county's planning costs could be substantially reduced because there will be no need for a site-selection process.

SMRT was one of four finalists firms reviewed by a jail committee comprised of county officials from multiple departments. Two finalists were interviewed and those two were asked to submit final prices, then the committee conducted reference checks.

SMRT was selected by the committee on a 7-3 vote with one abstention, Landers said.

The county is establishing a page on its website that will provide the public with all of the information available on the new jail as the process progresses, Landers said. 

Landers expects more information on costs and a construction timeline to emerge within six months.

July 12, 2018 - 5:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, Genesee County Jail, Sheriff's Office, news.

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Twenty-five years ago, at age 38, Norm Itjen decided to become a corrections officer in the Genesee County Jail figuring it would be the kind of job that would offer security and help him reach retirement.

Tuesday, he proved his hunch right. He retired and was given a warm send off by his coworkers, and colleagues within the Sheriff's Office and Batavia Police Department.

A native of Elba and graduate of Elba High School, and currently the mayor of Elba, Itjen's first career was as a maintenance worker at St. Jerome's Hospital. He also had a security officer job before taking the civil service exam and getting hired at the jail.

The best part of the job, Itjen said, was the people he met.

"Through the years, I've become president of our local union, president the New York State Deputy Sheriff's Association," Itjen said. "I met people all over the state and made lots of lifetime friends."

Over the years, many people have started their employment with the Sheriff's Office at the jail and later moved onto road patrol. That wasn't part of Itjen's plan.

"At the time, I wore glasses," Itjen said. "At that time you couldn't work on the road if you wore glasses. And then my age also played a factor."

Now at retirement age, Itjen says he has plenty to keep him busy. Besides being mayor, he likes camping, golf, and he's a volunteer at his church in Morganville.

"I also have a beautiful granddaughter," he said.

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Corrections officers, Sheriff's Office command staff, several deputies and Batavia PD officers, saluted Itjen as he walked out of the Genesee County Jail for the last time.

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On his last day of duty, Itjen shakes hands with Officer Kyle Krtanik, working his first day of duty with Batavia PD. 

February 27, 2018 - 12:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news, notify.

Faced with increasing pressure from New York's corrections commission, officials in Genesee County are exploring the requirements and necessity of building a new jail.

Among the first steps -- meet with a consultant who has studied the local criminal justice system and the current jail and hear what he learned and what he has to recommend.

Saturday morning, members of the Legislature, senior county offiicals, and Sheriff's Office staff met to hear what that consultant, Rod Miller, president of CRS Incorporated, had to say.

The bottom line: Genesee County needs a new jail. It may need to be built to meet a projected jail population of 184 by 2042. Such a jail could cost more than $52 million.

The design of the jail must also deal with reality -- the reality of state regulations and the needs of a jail population that is ever in flux.

Miller is recommending a jail design that can accommodate a growing inmate population, but one flexible enough to accommodate an average daily population that is ever changing based on age, mental stability, special needs, and gender -- these days that means not just male and female groups. The new jail also needs to accommodate transgender individuals.

Getting the public to accept a new jail, Miller acknowledges, will be difficult, but he doesn't think the state is going to give Genesee County much leeway.

The commission, he said, takes very seriously its goal to ensure a safe and operationally efficient jail system. 

New York has standards, he said. Half the states don't have standards for local jails and among those that do, New York is one of the few with strict and well-defined standards. 

"To me, that's a good thing," Miller said. "You've got somebody backing you on what you need to do."

To the advantage of local officials, Miller said, the county already has the system in place to support a modern jail.

"You have a very proactive criminal justice and social services system that works well together," Miller said. "It's really very impressive."

The biggest expense of a new jail over 30 years isn't the construction, Miller said. It's staffing. That will take up 60 percent of the county's expense over the first 30 years of a new jail's lifespan.

"New York is very intensive on staffing requirements," Miller said.

The current, aging jail, however, hasn't evolved, Miller said, to meet the demands modern society puts on it, or how the local criminal justice system to keep short-term stays at the jail to a minimum.  

The county's criminal justice system does a good job of diverting people from jail, toward release under supervision, or treatment for mental health problems or substance abuse. Therefore, generally, the people who are in the jail stay longer than three days -- more than half of all incarcerations -- and these are people who need to be there, Miller said.

But when it was designed in the 1980s, the architects didn't anticipate a facility that would mostly house people staying there for months at a time.  That's common with older jails, Miller said. 

"A lot of inmates will tell you," Miller said, "that if you're going to do a long time, jail time is the worse time."

Looking at jail population trends, the number of local average daily incarcerations is going to grow from less than 100 now to more than 180 by 2042, Miller said.

The growing inmate population locally isn't driven by more cops on the beat -- there aren't -- nor an increase in the crime rate -- it's gone down -- or any other identifiable socio-economic trend Miller said, except that more and more women are getting into serious legal trouble.

Most of Miller's projection anticipates a sizable increase in female inmate population in the coming decades. Whether that trend will continue, Miller acknowledged, just isn't something he or anybody else can predict. He said all he and the commission can do is look at the trends to come up with projections. He said intuitively, they know that much growth isn't likely, but if they back off that projection, how do they arrive at a realistic lower number? The data isn't available to support any other projection.

One thing that is known: jails need to deal more often these days with transgender individuals.

That's a sticky issue for corrections officials because you can't simply just place somebody with a male or female population based on physical appearance, what's on their birth certificate or driver's license, or their self-identification of gender. Placing an inmate with the general population based on any of those decision points is potentially dangerous.

"It's a dilemma," Miller acknowledged. "It's a practical and legal consideration. One of your obligations is protecting inmates from harm so there needs to be separation. You probably need a small housing unit for just one or two inmates at a time. You have to have that flexibility."

Jail Superintendent William Zipfel told the story of a recent inmate who identified as female. She even had a birth certificate and driver's license that said she was female.

"If you saw her sitting at a table or walking into a room, you would not identify her as anything but female," Zipfel said.

She hadn't yet gone through a sex-change operation, however, and the Genesee County Jail can't house female inmates.

"There was not another facility that was going to take her as a female and we can't put her in a male facility," Zipfel said. 

Fortunately, a judge was willing to release her to the supervision of Genesee Justice, Zipfel said.

As good as the local criminal justice system is, Miller said, there is one gap local officials should consider addressing. Currently, the county doesn't have a good way to deal with people who don't have mental health or substance abuse problems but are otherwise in life circumstances where they would benefit from supervision while their cases are pending or while serving time for a conviction.

Miller recommended -- and said he's seen it work very well in other jurisdictions -- inclusion at a new jail location a facility that houses inmates during non-work hours but allows them to hold down a job. In fact, to live in the facility, inmates would be required to hold down a job and they would help cover the cost of their room and board.

The addition of a facility to house people in this subcategory of not-hardened-criminal, nor the mental health case, nor substance abuse case, especially during pre-trial periods, would be welcome by local judges and magistrates, Miller said. It's always a struggle, he said, for magistrates to decide what to do with this class of offender, whether to put them in jail or release them into the community.

The option would also assist the community by helping to prevent defendants from losing jobs, which can just make their problems worse, and therefore they become more of a burden on the community.

Jail for a defendant, Miller noted, is always the more expensive option.

The jail also isn't equipped to deal with the recently arrested who might be released in less than a day after being taken into custody.  

With local courts increasingly not opening for arrests at night, more defendants are being held for extended hours until the court is open for their initial arraignment.

Batavia PD, Le Roy PD, and Corfu PD do not have appropriate holding cells for such inmates. Batavia PD might look at adding holding cells in its plan for a new police headquarters, Miller said, but that is going to add to the expense of the facility and require extra staffing to monitor detainees.  

Once a police station has such holding cells, Miller said, the department's legal liability for the safety of the inmates increases tremendously.

It makes more sense, Miller said, to build the new jail with a plan to house and hold people for short-term stays and ensure those people are segregated from the regular jail population unless they are accused of serious crimes and are likely to be bound over anyway.

"The county can be the most cost-efficient and effective alternative to providing the service to the city, towns, and villages instead of letting them fend for themselves," Miller said.

Zipfel said one issue the local jail has with the state commission is how to handle new inmates.

When an inmate is processed they are classified in order to determine where in the jail they will be held. The state requires that they are tested for drugs and have a criminal history completed while they are being held for 72 hours before being classified. During that 72 hours, they should be under constant observation, the state says, and not mixed with another classification of inmate.  

The Genesee County Jail completes drug testing and a criminal background check immediately upon admission and then classifies them.

The difference in procedures is a source of friction between the local jail and the state commission, Zipfel said.

Any inmate who arrives at the jail under influence of drugs or alcohol must remain under constant watch, which the current jail makes difficult for corrections officers to do safely. 

Zipfel also discussed part of the admission procedure for female inmates: They are also given a pregnancy test. All of them. Jail officials are not allowed, by state regulation, from placing handcuffs on a female inmate who is pregnant or has been pregnant within the previous six weeks.

Miller acknowledged, based on his experience of going through the process in other jurisdictions, that some members of the public are going to try and find every reason not to build a new jail. He recommended officials develop a plan to educate the public on both the necessity and requirement the county is facing to build a new jail.

Which brought the legislators in the room to the discussion of whether it's realistic to discuss a regional facility shared with Orleans County. Setting aside the appearance that Orleans County seems to be heading in its own direction, officials discussed the logistic difficulty of a shared facility.

If it were in Orleans County, say, Barre, Genesee County would face the burden and expense and lost patrol time of driving inmates to and from Barre. There would also be issues to address about how the jail would be staffed, who would be responsible for it legally, or how that burden would be shared, and it isn't at all clear a shared facility would save either jurisdiction any money.

"If you have to build a jail that is twice the size with twice the staffing, how does that save money?" Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said.

There are states with examples of successful regional jails, Miller said, but in those states, the state government picked up half the cost of the jail.

That isn't likely to happen in New York.

"Unless the state picks up at least 50 percent of the cost, it's just not feasible," Legislator Gary Maha said.

April 18, 2017 - 10:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news.

The issues of an aging jail population, women involved more often in habitual criminal activity, and a greater availability and use of illicit drugs continue to vex local officials struggling to maintain cost controls on the Genesee County Jail.

Sheriff William Sheron and Jail Superintendent William Zipfel briefed members of the Genesee County Legislature at yesterday's Public Service Committee meeting on the issues that make jail operations difficult.

The expense of female inmate transport has been an ongoing issue for the past several years and the number of female inmates has held steady recently. Some of the transports have taken deputies further away from the county because of inmates with more serious issues.

Sheron said inmates have had to be placed in jails as far away as Wayne and Steuben counties.

"These are individuals for whom we’ve exhausted every alternative to incarceration," Sheron said. "They’ve been through the cycle. They’ve been before the judge many times and, basically, there is no place to put them but in jail."

Zipfel first raised the issues of older inmates and more drug problems during budget discussions in October. The problem may not have grown since then, but it's not going away.

To illustrate the kind of tougher inmate population correctional officers are dealing with these days, Zipfel told legislators about an inmate brought into the jail Friday night. He had been combative with the arresting officers but calmed down after being admitted into the jail. He was allowed to mingle with the general population, but later in the evening, he started to cause problems. He was locked in an isolation cell.

Over the course of the night, Zipfel said, the inmate slept maybe 15 minutes.

"He kicked the isolation cell door so hard and so often throughout the night that he took it off its tracks," Zipfel said. "I had never seen that in 30 years."

He had been tested for drugs and the results were negative, but a second sample was tested for PCP, Zipfel said, and that was negative.

It was only because a county mental health worker and a judge were available on a weekend that jail officials were able to transfer him to a mental health ward at another facility.

"It’s because of those relationships that are very unique to this county, that you don’t see anyplace else, that we were able to make that happen," Zipfel said. "If we hadn’t been able to make that happen, that would have cost us more over time."

The rise in opiate use is also having an impact on the jail. More and more inmates are coming in who, if not on opiates at the time, they are addicts, and if any newly incarcerated inmate is high on an opiate, then that creates another burden on correctional officer time.

"The commission has come down and said that now if somebody is under the influence of opiates, they’ve got to go on constant watch until medically cleared, which could take some time," Sheron said. "That’s a new directive that has come up in the last six months."

The subtext of all these issues is that the Sheriff is operating an old jail not designed to house female inmates, or deal with the growing medical, mental health and substance abuse problems present in the current jail population.

A new facility would help increase command and control, officer safety, as well as better meet the medical and mental health needs of inmates, Sheron said.

“Those are the kind of issues that the corrections commission is very forthright (in telling us) that we need to address,” Sheron said.

February 17, 2017 - 12:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news.

County legislators are being asked to approve a $110,000 expenditure to start a feasibility study on the construction of a new county jail.

Both County Manager Jay Gsell and Sheriff William Sheron told members of the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday that the county would be better off getting out in front of the issue instead of waiting for the Corrections Commission to come down hard on the county.

"If we didn’t at least show progress, do a needs assessment, they’re going to pull the variance," Sheron said.

For at least 15 years, the jail has been operating with a variance for the number of beds in the jail, and without it, the county would have to ship some portion of its male prisoner population to other county jails, like they do now with female inmates.

“If we have to start boarding out males at $85 to $90 a day aside from our 11 this week, I believe it was, to 22 females, that starts to push our costs outside the realm of reality," Gsell said.

Legislators asked if the study would take into account the county's ability to pay for a $35 million to $42 million facility, Gsell said the cost issue wouldn't be a factor if the county did nothing and the state forced the county into building a new jail.

"If we don’t do this and let the commission drive us the way they did the last time we had to add seven people into the complement of people (at the jail) because of the posts we have versus what they wanted us to do, then shame on us because, basically, our inability to pay wouldn't really factor into it," Gsell said.

Legislator Shelly Stein asked if the study would look at what services were offered through the jail. In an era of rising addiction rates, she said it was important to her that drug treatment and mental health professionals have better access to inmates.

Gsell said a needs assessment would gather input from all interested members of the community and all of those issues could be brought to the table.

After the meeting, Sheron said the Sheriff's Office is already in the process of working with drug treatment and mental health agencies on creating treatment programs at the jail.

The process would also include discussions on a joint facility with Orleans County, which has already had variances rescinded for its jail, perhaps even bringing Wyoming County into the discussion for a three-county facility.

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