Sheriff: Jail Budget Not Impacted By New Mandate

New state regulations regarding inmates in solitary confinement that require increased time outside their cells won’t impact costs at the Chautauqua County Jail, according to Sheriff Joe Gerace.

The regulations were announced recently by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and cover how solitary confinement, also known as administrative segregation, is reported. The state will now require inmates in solitary confinement be allowed outside for four hours each day, up from one hour currently mandated.

Any decision that would place an individual in solitary confinement for more than a month also must now be reported to the State Commission of Correction. The state also must be notified if inmates younger than 18 are placed in restrictive housing or are denied or restricted certain services.

If an individual who is pregnant or is under the age of 18 is placed in restrictive confinement for disciplinary reasons, the decision must be reviewed on a weekly basis by the chief administration officer until the restrictive confinement is found to be no longer necessary.

Gerace said the new regulations should not impact jail operating costs, but have more of a procedural impact. He said the jail will likely stagger the times that inmates are allowed outside their cells.

“It’s just another regulation we’ll have to work with,” Gerace said.

The governor said the regulations will be helpful in a variety of ways when it comes to solitary confinement.

“Amid public reports of misuse and abuse of solitary confinement, these new standards will inject much needed uniformity, accountability and transparency in the process for all local jails,” Cuomo said in a statement. “These new standards will help root out unacceptable behavior and build upon the landmark reforms put into place at state prisons, creating a consistent level of quality and fairness at all facilities across New York.”

The Commission of Correction is a state agency governed by a three-member board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. It sets minimum standards for the management of local correctional facilities and evaluates, investigates and oversees local and state correctional facilities and police lock-ups to ensure compliance.

In addition, the commission monitors medical care provided by correctional facilities and investigates in-custody deaths; assists in developing new correctional facilities; and approves all construction and renovation of those facilities.

The sheriff said the change in regulations from one hour to four hours and reporting changes are most likely due to policies and procedures used in other places. He said he was aware of concerns regarding facilities such as Rikers Island in New York City.

In the Chautauqua County Jail, Gerace said solitary confinement is usually referred to as administrative segregation and is a measure that is used there.

“It’s pretty regular,” he said. “With 300-plus inmates, it’s necessary.”

Gerace said there has to be some punitive measure that can be used to ensure order, and also, it can be used to protect an inmate.

Administrative segregation is not like it’s portrayed in movies, Gerace said, where inmates routinely are showed in dark, damp cells. State regulations stipulate that cells have to be at least 80 square feet with adequate lighting, while inmates are given time to shower and be allowed outside their cell.

Gerace said it would also be uncommon to have a pregnant inmate in administrative segregation. Currently, there are 42 female inmates, though the sheriff said he was unaware if any were pregnant.