At the Community Forum on Wednesday, February 24, 2016, in Amenia, County Executive Molinaro presented his plan for a new Dutchess County Jail. He claimed that the $192 million plan would save Dutchess County money, which is plausible, only if the alternative is housing prisoners out to other counties.
However, the assertion that it is this project or none does not make sense. This plan is very expensive (projected cost of $274 million over the life of the bond), requiring a debt service of almost $10 million per year for 27 years to taxpayers. If implemented, it would be the most costly jail expansion in New York State history. Furthermore, Mr. Molinaro admitted that Alternatives to Incarceration programs are reducing the average daily population in the jail. He stated that if that trend continues, they might decide to reduce the size of the jail by not building a third story, or even decommissioning part of the current facility.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to plan the jail for what is actually needed, not some inflated figure?
The first part of the project involves building a new office building for the Sheriff’s department on the adjacent Taylor Manufacturing site after demolishing the current building. The State Commission on Corrections is justifiably concerned with overcrowding and sub-standard conditions in the existing jail. Why is a $36 million Sheriff’s building a priority over building the jail? When I asked that question, Mr. Molinaro stated that it is necessary to demolish the building to make space for part of the new jail facility. That only makes sense if this is the only plan being considered, and the building schedule can’t be changed.
The County Legislature is expected to vote on the entire project on March 21. Essentially, they are being told to take it or leave it. I believe that they should be given the necessary time to consider all aspects of the plan very carefully. They should not vote for the project as it has been presented: it is too expensive; it is the wrong size; and there are other alternatives that should be implemented before building a mega-jail.