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Ritchie: Senate bills would help ease jail overcrowding, alleviate costs

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CANTON - Two bills that would help alleviate jail overcrowding by requiring state parole violators to be transferred to state prisons within 10 days have passed the state Senate, according to Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie.

But local law enforcement officials are reserving celebration, because the state is already bound by a similar “10-day rule” that it apparently chooses to ignore.

“That’s the number of days that are already on the books,” Jefferson County Undersheriff Paul W. Trudeau said.

The state is supposed to admit inmates to state prisons within 10 days of being notified that they are “state-ready.” However, Mr. Trudeau said, “That pretty much never happens.”

At the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building, it is normal for a state parole violator to be held for more than two months before he or she is transferred to a state correctional facility, according to jail supervisor Lt. Kristopher M. Spencer.

One of the state parole violators now held at the PSB has been there since Jan. 3, he said.

According to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, 22 parole violators were detained at the Jefferson County facility as of Thursday, with most of them held pending local charges — including the inmate held at the PSB since January — or hearings later this month.

The state also is supposed to reimburse local entities for expenses incurred beyond the 10-day period, but Mr. Spencer said, “We’ve never seen any payment.”

Sarah V. Compo, a spokeswoman for Sen. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said the DOCCS has “taken some steps to address this issue.” However, she said, the reimbursements counties are receiving do not cover the costs associated with housing state inmates and the difference amounts to millions of dollars.

“In Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence Counties, localities are bearing the cost of detaining the state’s prisoners who have been released on parole. Not only that, but the overcrowding is causing some leaders to call for expansions,” Sen. Ritchie said in a news release.

The bills, which now await Assembly approval, would require parole violators to be transferred to a state correctional facility after 10 business days in a local facility and would establish a two-year pilot program in Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties.

But this 10-day rule has a potential loophole, as it can be prolonged by 20 days “per extension” by a local court.

“It is an issue and this legislation would be helpful. I would encourage the Assembly to pass this legislation,” St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin M. Wells said in an email.

If adopted as state law, the new rule will take effect 120 days after its enactment.

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