TITLE OF BILL:
to amend the correction law, in relation to the housing of persons
nineteen, twenty and twenty-one years of age within the correction
PURPOSE OF BILL:
This bill would provide fiscal relief to county correctional
facilities that experience capacity problems by providing flexibility
to jail administrators in housing inmates who are 19, 20 and 21 years
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 of the bill would amend Correction Law § 500-b(4) to
prohibit local jail administrators from housing persons who are 18
years old and younger with persons who are 22 years old or older, but
would allow them to house persons who are 19, 20 or 21 years old
with either the older or the younger categories of inmates. It also
would make a conforming, technical change to Correction Law § 500-b
(13), which allows the State Commission of Correction (SCOC) to issue
variances to address emergency overcrowding situations in local jails.
Section 2 of the bill contains the effective date.
Correction Law § 500-b(4) prohibits a local jail administrator from
housing persons who are 16, 17, and 18 years old with persons who are
over 18 years old.
Correction Law § 500-b(13) creates an exception to this prohibition,
by allowing SCOC to issue a variance to allow commingling for short
periods of time to address an emergency overcrowding condition, but
only when such commingling does not present a danger to the health,
safety or welfare of any inmate.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT:
Safety and welfare of inmates, and the overall safety, security and
good order of the facility are essential to the proper administration
of any correctional facility. Age classification rules that prevent
the commingling of certain categories of inmates can play a
significant role in furthering these goals. These rules can, however,
also lead to unnecessary overcrowding in some sections of a facility,
and can create fiscal burdens on
counties that are required to board inmates at facilities in other
counties, when they have available capacity in another section of
their own facility but are barred from using that capacity because of
age classification restrictions. This bill would amend certain age
classification rules applicable to county correctional facilities in
a manner that is consistent with the safety and welfare of inmates,
but will give jail administrators greater flexibility and relieve
fiscal burdens on county governments.
A number of county jails outside of New York City are operating in
excess of their overall capacity yet have vacant beds due to
statutorily defined classification standards that separate inmates in
a manner that is not consistent with operational or safety oriented
protocals. SCOC reports that there is typically capacity available in
a unit used for housing persons who are 16, 17, and 18 years old, but
that, under existing law, persons 19 years old and older cannot be
placed in those beds - even if the "adult" section of the facility is
overcrowded. Under this bill, a jail administrator could not place any
adult of any age in the unit with those younger persons, but he or
she could place persons who are only slightly older - those who are
19, 20 and 21 years old - in that unit.
In many instances, this flexibility will provide the needed "safety
valve" that would relieve the need either to board out inmates or
build more jail capacity in the county.
For over twenty years SCOC has had the authority to grant temporary
waivers of the age classification restrictions in emergency
overcrowding situations. It is not aware of any problems or safety
concerns that have occurred in instances when younger and older
inmates have been commingled pursuant to a waiver of the age
Because they are only available on a temporary, short-term basis,
however, these emergency waivers are not a viable solution in counties
that face chronic overcrowding.
Instead, these counties are left with essentially two options.
One option is for the county to board out inmates who would be housed
in overcrowded areas of a facility to another county and pay that
recipient county over $100 per day per inmate. Based on local jail
capacity data compiled by SCOC, an average of approximately 300
inmates are boarded out to other counties on any given day. Boarding
out an average of 25 inmates can have an annual cost of approximately
$1 million for a county, and several counties outside of New York
City regularly board out more than 25 inmates. This places a
significant fiscal burden on those counties that are routinely
required to board out inmates.
The other option is for the county to build a new or larger facility
that would allow it both to accommodate all inmates in that county and
to follow the existing classification statutory limitations. But the
costs of constructing a new facility can be prohibitive, averaging
between $75,000 and $90,000 per bed.
These fiscal burdens, though painful for a county, could perhaps be
justified if there truly were no available capacity in a county
facility. The reality, however, is that
there is often unused space in one portion of a facility, even while
another section is overcrowded.
SCOC has convened an informal working group of several county jail·
administrators, the Sheriffs Association, the New York State
Association of Counties and the Division of the Budget, which is
exploring remedies for the fiscal challenges that strain the
operational needs of county jails. This working group has endorsed
this proposal as one that is operationally effective and fiscally
responsible, while not causing any impact on the safety of inmates
confined in local correctional facilities or to overall public safety.
This bill would not have any direct state fiscal impact. However, it
would allow county governments to avoid operational and capital
construction costs associated with overcrowding at certain county
correctional facilities. Additionally, this bill would provide county
governments with immediate fiscal relief in a manner that preserves
public safety at a time when all levels of New York government are
making touch choices to reduce spending and operate within limited
2009-10: S.6033 - Referred to Crime Victims, Crime & Correction,
Governor Program Bill No. 54
This bill would take effect immediately, with provisions.