Overcrowding Still An Issue At County Jail

MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County Jail’s population continues to be at maximum capacity while a little more than 10 inmates sit in facilities in neighboring counties.

As of last week, Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace said they had 12 inmates boarded in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. The County Jail in Mayville can house a little more than 260 inmates. Gerace says he has no control over individuals who are arrested and committed to the jail by judges.

However, Gerace says he knows of 14 state parole violators in the jail who have no local charges. When individuals are on parole, they are released from state prison. If they violate conditions of their parole while released, they are picked up and incarcerated in local jails.

“Unfortunately, courts have ruled that the sheriff must hold them until a parole hearing can be conducted by the (state) Division of Parole,” Gerace said. “For sheriffs across the state, this is extremely frustrating. They do not in our opinion belong in (county) jail.”

Several inmates in the jail are waiting commitment to state prison. Gerace said once they are entered in the computer system for transport to prison, the state has 10 days to accept them.

As for those who had local charges and violated probation, Gerace said last week the jail had 12 of those individuals. They’re sitting in jail as they wait to have a hearing.

Inmates who are required to be on constant one-on-one watch continues to strain the jail budget. Gerace said an analysis from last year saw constant watches on almost every shift each day throughout the year. This year, Gerace said it’s no different.

“I’d say it ranges from one to five at any given time or more,” he said. “You try to plan for that in the budget. We did make some adjustments to the 2017 budget trying to incorporate that cost, but things happen outside our control.”

Meanwhile, a transition of jail health services to the county Health and Human Services Department continues after beginning in April in an effort to better treat health issues and potentially reduce recidivism. The transfer of services is still relatively new and a work in progress. Gerace said he endorsed the concept from the beginning and believes it will be beneficial.

“You’re talking about a part of county government that deals with that particular thing,” he said.

Christine Schuyler, health and human services commissioner, said in a statement that progress and improvements are being made in protocols and quality of care. Enhanced services detail a nurse practitioner who’s experienced in correctional and public health as well as delivering more consistent and thorough care to the inmates. Staff will include registered and licensed practical nurses as well as aides and assistants.

As for the impact it’s had on recidivism and inmates, Schuyler said it hasn’t been long enough to evaluate the full effects of the transition.