Extra jail cells bring Fulton County money

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Department is taking in $225,000 more than expected in revenue this year

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Department is taking in $225,000 more than expected in revenue this year because of an increase in boarding inmates from outside the county.

The department budgeted its revenue at $300,000 for the year, but is currently on track to take in $525,000, said Capt. Randy Benedict.

“When we put the budget together last year we based it on the numbers we had been averaging,” he said. “But this year Herkimer County needed to house out more inmates. So the jail’s population fluctuates greatly.”

The Fulton County Jail, built in 1993 on Route 29, has a maximum capacity of 169 inmates. But the state recommends keeping beds at 80 percent occupancy.

Because males and females can’t be housed together and 16- to 18-year-olds must be kept separate from adult inmates, Fulton County considers its jail full at about 130 inmates.

Currently, the jail houses 82 inmates, with nine from outside the county. Seven inmates are being housed from Herkimer County and two from Schoharie County, Benedict said.

On average, the jail will board up to 20 inmates from outside the county, he said.

The average daily cost to house an inmate is $106, he said.

“They pay for pharmaceuticals, dental care and the rest of it goes toward general care, food, clothing, those types of things,” he said.

Those numbers fluctuate throughout the year depending on crime rates and alternative incarceration options, he said.

The Herkimer County Jail has a maximum capacity of 41 beds. At one point they were seeing an average inmate population of 60, Benedict said, so they had to board out a lot of those inmates.

The state Commission of Correction approves agreements between counties for substitute jail orders when one jail becomes overcrowded or ineffective in housing inmates safely. Benedict said Fulton County currently has agreements with Herkimer and Schoharie counties.

He said it’s not unusual for county jails to ship inmates to other counties if they have too many to handle. Over the last 15 to 18 years, he said, most counties have replaced old jails or built additions so outside boarding wouldn’t be necessary.

“When we built the jail in 1993, it was built larger than what the county thought we needed at the time, just because there were a great number of jails boarding people out,” Benedict said.

He predicts more inmates from other counties will continue to trickle in.

Schoharie County’s inmates are currently housed in Albany County because flooding from Tropical Storm Irene damaged the jail in Schoharie. Until the jail is deemed fit for occupation, some of that county’s inmates could come to Fulton County, Benedict said.

Herkimer County is building a new jail, but it’s at least two years away. The jail, which would be built on Route 28, is awaiting site approval.

In the meantime, Benedict said, Herkimer may need to keep boarding inmates in Fulton County.

As Fulton County supervisors pore over 2012 departmental budgets looking for places to cut to bring down an expected property tax hike, the unexpected revenue from housing outside inmates is helping.

“For every dollar of revenue we bring in, it offsets the need to make substantial cuts,” Benedict said. “Of course, there’s always ways to save money and so maybe we’ll put off until next year buying something we would have wanted this year. I know we’re expecting more guidance from the budget committee over the days and weeks to come.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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