As a former Erie County sheriff and New York state trooper, Sen. Patrick Gallivan probably understands inmate populations and jail finances better than most members of the state Legislature.

So perhaps Gov. Andrew Cuomo should cede to his expertise and sign a bill that would open up New York state jails to inmates from other states.

The state Senate and Assembly this week passed a bill sponsored by Gallivan that will allow counties with extra space in their jails to enter into contracts with other states to accept their extra inmate populations.

The bill would not only help New York counties by providing welcome boarding revenue and by filling up unused jail space, it also would help nearby counties like Vermont and Pennsylvania, who now have to take their extra inmates to states much further away than New York, including Virginia and Colorado.

Sen. Gallivan says allowing inmates to cross state borders would not be unusual. New York counties already enter into agreements to accept inmates from other counties within New York, from New York state prisons and from the federal government.

Gallivan said he couldn't explain why the state has the inter-state ban on boarding inmates in the first place. But it's in the law, and he thinks it should be changed. He's right.

Under the bill, New York counties would be given the authority to negotiate individual contracts with the surrounding states, setting boarding fees and establishing agreements on liability and availability.

It would be very similar to the arrangement now in place for negotiating contracts with other counties and the state and federal prison systems.

The bill would be particularly beneficial to Warren and Washington counties, each of which built jails that were too large for their inmate populations.

The jails were built oversized in part because of larger local

inmate populations and in part

on the promise of the counties generating big bucks from boarding inmates from outside the counties.

But the boom market for boarding inmates dropped off as those counties have built their own larger jails or found other places to board out their inmates.

As of this week, Washington County's 180-bed facility currently has space for about 60 extra inmates, according to Sheriff Roger Leclaire.

The county charges about $85 per day to house inmates from other localities. That means a potential maximum revenue stream for the county of about $5,100 per day, or about $1.8 million a year.

The $24 million expansion of Warren County's jail in 2004 allowed the county to save $1 million a year in boarding out inmates and to take in $1 million a year taking other facilities' prisoners in the first year.

The average daily inmate population for the 186-bed facility in the first quarter of 2011 was 146, according to Jail Administrator Capt. Michael Gates. Warren County charges about $80 a day, plus all medical expenses, to other facilities that bring their inmates here.

So figure that 40 open beds at $80 a day works out to a maximum annual boarding revenue of about $1.17 million.

Of course, inmate populations fluctuate, as does availability to accept outside inmates.

And there are costs associated with housing inmates from other counties and states, so allowing out-of-state inmates wouldn't all be profit for local taxpayers. But it would be revenue that counties are missing out on now.

Senator Gallivan said there was some question about the constitutionality of the language of his bill. But that has been cleared up, and the bill is ready to be sent to Gov. Cuomo for his signature.

Let's hope he sees how this bill would help cash-strapped counties generate needed revenue and that he'll sign the bill into law.

Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney and citizen representative Carol Merchant.

(2) comments

fxkane

I think I am opposed to the bill for at least two good reasons: One, prison conditions are not nationally mandated, so say a Vermont prisoner serving time in Kansas or Tennessee may get a far different treatment than one serving time in his or her home state. Second, prisoners should serve their sentence in the state in which they committed their crime (usually their own), so that they may have a fair shake at having family or friend visitors--an ultimately a better shot at rehabilitation.

This is especially true when you consider that a large percentage of prisoners are in for non-violent crimes and should thus not be subject to the further retribution to what amounts to a kind of exile. Sending someone to another state is tantamount to tacking on additional punishment than is already dealt out by the Judge’s sentence.

This said, I realize that Vermont exiles would be better off here in NY than in Kansas, and thus perhaps contiguous states could work out arrangements.

tomnchris
tomnchris

first: no such thing as rehab of a humanbeing who has crossed the line in offenses against society and other humans. Property crimes are a different story...Personal crimes are always punishable and should be more severe.
New York already has agreements with other states regarding prisoner swaps(usually because of noteriety and/or nature of the crime) I worked for 25 years w/ NYSDOCS...so I know what I am writing about. The punishment of being taken OUT OF SOCIETY is part of the shunning by society for the various crimes...Family contacts are NOT part of the deal...IF they truly cared for their families, they would have been more conscientious prior to the stupid crimes they try to get away with????! Every state has sentencing guidelines...if all they did was be prudent.....

Welcome to the discussion.

Comments will not be posted if any of the following rules are violated:
- Comments must be contained to the topic of the articles only.
- Comments must be civil in tone and cannot contain personal insults directed toward another reader.
- Profanities cannot be used, including abbreviations or acronyms.
- Comments critical of crime or accident victims are not allowed.
- Comments that imply guilt for those arrested are not allowed.
- Comments that are potentially libelous, including those that contain accusations not supported by facts are not allowed.
- Comments that appear to be taunting others who comment are not allowed.