SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The Onondaga County Legislature is scheduled to vote next Tuesday on a plan to merge the inmates and staff of the Jamesville Correctional Facility with the Onondaga County Justice Center in Downtown Syracuse.
“It’s not about closing Jamesville,” says Legislature Chairman Jim Rowley, “it’s about staffing.”
When the merger was proposed last month, then-Sheriff Gene Conway and County Executive Ryan McMahon said the county was at legal risk by insufficient staffing levels.
Onondaga County has been threatened by renewed legal action because there weren’t enough deputies to provide transportation for inmates to be brought to their rightful court appointments.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Onondaga County Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee, new Sheriff Toby Shelley said he’s fixed the transportation problem in his first month in office.
Sheriff Shelly said: “Since we’ve taken office, the past 31 days, two people have missed their court date… December, we looked at it, and I believe it was 26 people that missed their court date. We’ve identified the problem. We have the solution.”
In an interview with NewsChannel 9, Chairman Rowley expressed concern that one month of success isn’t a good enough sample of a fixed problem.
Sheriff Shelley asked the Legislature to consider the State Department of Corrections doing a feasibility study, the results of which Shelley said he’d abide by.
Another issue brought up at Tuesday’s meeting: how to expand jail capacity if inmate populations increase again.
Deputy County Executive Ann Rooney expressed willingness to physically expand the Downtown Syracuse jail.
A third concern about the merger, especially from corrections officers whose jobs would be transferred, is their seniority not transferring.
Commissioner of Personnel for Onondaga County, Carl Hummel, said, “The previous sheriff sat with me across the table from the DSBA (Deputy Sheriff Benevolent Association), tried to address this issue, tried to address the seniority issue… and the DSBA was unresponsive.”
Chairman Rowley said: “I’m going to take input from all the legislators and see where we stand. It’s scheduled to be on the floor and, as I stand here today, I’m not sure why I’d take it off.”