Jail Resolution

FOR STATE-OF-THE-ART ALTERNATIVES
TO COSTLY JAIL EXPANSION IN DUTCHESS COUNTY

WHEREAS, Dutchess County has committed to make sure mentally ill Dutchess County residents are no longer arrested and incarcerated in our County Jail by making sure all law enforcement officers in Dutchess County get Crisis Intervention Training and putting into place services for the mentally ill; according to the Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council, literally 80 percent of Dutchess County Jail inmates have substance abuse or mental health issues, and

WHEREAS, diverting mentally ill from arrest and jail greatly lessens any perceived need for jail expansion; Miami-Dade County saves $12 million a year by diverting mentally ill from arrest and jail and was able to shut down one of their jails there for this reason because they lowered their jail census from 7800 inmates to 4800 inmates this way, and Bexar County in Texas saves $8 million a year by diverting mentally ill from arrest and jail; Bexar County had 800 empty jail beds after proceeding with plans for jail expansion, and

WHEREAS, New York City has embarked upon an effort to significantly reduce the length of stay in jail, modeled on a successful program in the Bronx that includes collaboration among judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, correction officials, and other participants in the justice system; the Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council recommended in 2012 that such needless delays in process be remedied, and

WHEREAS, according to our county's Public Defender, 80 percent of Dutchess County Jail inmates have merely been charged (they haven't gone to trial or been sentenced/convicted), and over half have been charged merely with misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies, and

WHEREAS, in Brooklyn, Housing + Solutions, Inc. and District Attorney Kenneth Thompson operate a diversion program for women with children; at Drew House, families have separate apartments and receive therapy or other treatment; typically women stay for 18 months to two years and leave without a criminal record, with a yearly cost of $35,000 per family compared to $135,000 or more for incarceration and foster care; a Columbia University team concluded the plan should be scaled up and replicated, and
[recall PoJo op-ed on this by Geri Wilmott http://www.DDWC.org and http://www.ENJAN.org]

WHEREAS, the Poughkeepsie Journal has reported that there are several dozen state parole violators in in the Dutchess County Jail, some incarcerated for minor violations; according to the National Institute of Corrections, they could and should be kept safely in halfway houses for $65 a day instead of much more being incarcerated in the Dutchess County Jail, and

WHEREAS, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, each at-risk youth put on the right track and kept on the right track, away from criminal justice system saves $1.2 million; Dutchess County has allowed far too many youth to slip through the cracks in the local school-to-prison pipeline, get mixed up in our county's criminal justice system, and be incarcerated in our County Jail, when so many cost-saving, pro-active, preventive alternatives have not been explored locally; county funding was eliminated five years ago for our county Youth Bureau's Project Return program has not returned, and neither has county funding for the Green Teen Community Gardening program for Poughkeepsie at-risk youth; there is also no longer a YMCA, YWCA, or even a Big Brothers Big Sisters in Poughkeepsie any more, and Columbus Elementary, Hyde Park Elementary, Arlington Elementary, and La Grange Elementary Schools have also all been shut down recently, and

WHEREAS, according to the Washington Post last December, "Chicago started a summer jobs program for teenagers attending high schools in some of the city's high-crime, low-income neighborhoods; research conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab found that students who were randomly assigned to participate in the program had 43 percent fewer violent-crime arrests over 16 months, compared to students in a control group," but thus far Dutchess County has refused to seriously fund a program like this to meet the true level of need in our communities; Nubian Directions' Robert Wright has recently stated there are at least 100 more at-risk youth unserved, and

WHEREAS, according to the Dutchess County Budget Office in its May 7th presentation to the Dutchess County Legislature's Budget, Finance, and Personnel Committee, Dutchess County taxpayers are paying a dear price indeed for at-risk youth who have not been kept out of our county's criminal justice system; Dutchess County taxpayers spent $33 million last year in contracted child institution costs, about 65% of which is reimbursed by state and/or federal government; just an extra handful of kids in detention or placement can change our budget in a million or two million dollars; one juvenile in one facility can cost $400,000 a year, and

WHEREAS, ninety percent of Dutchess County inmates are released in ten months; the current recidivism rate for Dutchess County Jail inmates is over fifty percent within five years of being released; the New York Times and Harvard University have recognized the effectiveness of Brooklyn's ComAlert re-entry program, which has greatly slashed recidivism there merely by investing $2300 per year per inmate after release; another program to ease re-entry, Circles of Support and Accountability, has been used successfully in Vermont, according to the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation; community-based, non-professional models to assist high-risk offenders to return to the community; these programs should be embraced here and the Exodus Transitional Community program already in place much more fully funded, and

WHEREAS, there are now over a dozen Dutchess County Jail inmates now incarcerated with incredibly low bail amounts, accused of nonviolent misdemeanors, who pose no threat to public safety;  Opportunities for Alternatives and Resources, a United Way agency in Tompkins County supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the County Legislature there, saves $400,000 in jail costs annually in a county with a population less than a third of Dutchess County; New York City will soon be following this model as well, and

WHEREAS, Dutchess County could and should also follow the recent example of New York City to decriminalize minor offenses like public consumption of alcohol, bicycling on the sidewalk, being in a park after dark, and failure to obey a park sign; penalties and fines will still have to be paid for those offenses but not jail time; New York City has found that literally 88 percent of folks there arrested for low-level offenses end up spending a week or two in jail awaiting trial because they cannot afford even low bail; the same is undoubtedly true here; New York City also has decided smartly last year not to prosecute youth for low-level marijuana possession; Dutchess could as well, and

WHEREAS, the police chief in Gloucester, Massachusetts recently decided not to arrest heroin addicts possessing heroin who turn themselves in; instead, the police department there is finding treatment to help those heroin addicts turn their lives around and make their communities safer, and therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Dutchess County Legislature requests that the Dutchess County Executive and Dutchess County Department of Public Works immediately stop plans to spend over $100 million of our county tax dollars on jail expansion and requests that the Dutchess County Executive, Dutchess County District Attorney, Dutchess County Public Defender, Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council, Dutchess County Magistrates Association, Dutchess County Department of Mental Hygiene, and Dutchess County Youth Bureau work together to make the above state-of-the-art criminal-justice reforms reality here in Dutchess County to avoid any need for jail expansion or housing out Dutchess County Jail inmates to other jails, and be it further


RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Dutchess County Executive, Dutchess County District Attorney, Dutchess County Public Defender, Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council, Dutchess County Magistrates Association, Dutchess County Department of Mental Hygiene, and Dutchess County Youth Bureau.

Joel Tyner
Dutchess County Legislator
joeltyner@earthlink.net

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