Our Justice Center must be improved. It is one of the five worst facilities in New York State, according to the NYS Commission of Correction, an organization of retired sheriffs that conducts these inspections.
To correct these constantly recurring problems, I will, in my first 100 days:
- Conduct a thorough review of the Justice Center to fully identify problems;
- Develop a plan to address the overcrowding and staffing issues at the Justice Center; and
- Conduct a full review of the subcontractors who provide medical and other services to those housed in our facilities.
People housed in the Onondaga County Justice Center are accused, and not yet convicted, of a crime. They are there because they cannot pay bail. They are presumed innocent according to our Constitution. While jails are not expected to be luxurious facilities, there is no reason why they cannot be administered professionally. We need to treat all people with dignity in our jail.
It took a Federal lawsuit to stop the practice of solitary confinement of juveniles in our jail, even though this practice had long since been deemed an inhumane and dangerous practice when applied to juveniles and it was clear to most observers that the Sheriff could not win on the merits of this case. This inhumane practice has already cost us, the taxpayer, $285,000 in lawyer fees alone. We have yet to pay the damages that are due to the plaintiffs in this case. The Sheriff could have avoided these costs by developing an alternate strategy to keep juveniles safe and securely detained, but he chose not to.
Jamesville Correctional Facility
Jamesville Correctional Facility since January 2018 has been under the control of the Onondaga County Sheriff Office. The voters moved to place this facility under the Sheriff’s authority because we were told that this would help reduce overtime costs in the Sheriff’s Office. Since Election Day, however, we have not heard from the Sheriff about how he intends to consolidate the two facilities and thus achieve taxpayer savings.
The Corrections Officers at Jamesville and at the Justice Center have the same training, and nearly identical responsibilities. (Differences stem from the fact that Jamesville Correctional Center houses inmates convicted of crimes while the Justice Center houses those who have been charged but not yet convicted.) But they earn significantly different salaries-at JCC, officers make on average $10,000 less each year than those assigned to the OCJC.
There are different unions with different collective bargaining agreements. The current contract for Jamesville Correctional employees ends in 2019 and collective bargaining agreement negotiations will begin. As of now, the Sheriff has not released anything about how he plans to address the pay parity issue (or the overtime reduction plan, for that matter.)
I plan to work forthrightly with the unions to ensure that we have the full resources available to meet and exceed mission objective for both facilities.
As it stands now, Jamesville Correctional Officers can’t be sent to the OCJC because of the pay disparity and contractual issues. Morale in the facility is low. Overtime continues to be ordered and personnel changes occur randomly. This is no way to run a secure facility-poor morale leads to lapses that can lead to injury or escape. Officers in both facilities need to share in the mission of the Sheriff’s Department.