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Anytime you move an inmate outside the facility that's a security issue, and I mean it's cost. It's huge money.

Jefferson county spends million on overcrowded jail

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The state commission of corrections is citing Jefferson County's jail after an inspection yesterday.

According to the Watertown Daily Times, the jail was cited for inadequate nurse staffing and the improper housing of a medically impaired inmate.

Overcrowding at the jail has drawn the commission's attention.

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Reported by

Joanna Richards
Watertown Correspondent

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Jefferson County’s population has been rising for years due to the growth of Fort Drum.
Crime has risen as well and the county jail has filled up, forcing county officials to send inmates to other counties’ lockups.

Jefferson County's jail hit a record this week for so-called “outboarding” when 58 Jefferson County inmates, over 40 percent of the total inmates legally housed, were sent to other counties.

Sheriff John Burns said Jefferson County isn't the only place where jail overcrowding has become a problem.

"The one problem we had this week is actually a couple of the jails couldn't take any more inmates – they were filled," he said. "So we were having a problem finding some, you know, place to send 'em."

For about three days this week, Burns said, his jail had to house more inmates than state law allows. That's something the state could fine the county for, although there's no sign that will happen this time.

The jail has room for 160 inmates but the state lets it house only 144 at a time. The extra spaces are for moving people around and keeping groups like juveniles and adults, and men and women, separated.

"It certainly can create a security risk, having more inmates inside," Burns said. "Transportation of the inmates to different jails certainly is a security issue – anytime you move an inmate outside the facility that's a security issue, and I mean it's cost. It's huge money." Burns said the jail has been sending inmates out this year since March, which forces his staff to work overtime transporting inmates to other jails.

The cost per inmate is about $100 a day, plus transportation and meals. Last year Jefferson County spent just under a million dollars outboarding inmates. Sheriff Burns said this year is shaping up to be even more costly.

Burns said he has pushed for a jail expansion but that last year a committee set up to look into the issue suspended its work when the jail's numbers dropped and no outboarding was needed for a few months.

So for now, Jefferson County is sending inmates to jails in six other counties – “pretty much all over the state,” Sheriff Burns said.

With Jefferson County one of the fastest growing areas of the state, he said, the problem can only  be expected to grow along with the population.


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