Kathy Welsh

Kathy Welsh

MONTICELLO – During his 2018 State of the State Speech on Wednesday, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke of the tragic case of a teenager who committed suicide after spending three years in Riker’s Island, and he called for a drastic response to jails that cannot meet state standards.

New Jail Helps Sullivan Avoid Governor’s Proposed Shutdown

Exterior of the original 1909 section of the Sullivan County Jail. Photo provided

“I am directing the State Corrections Commission to develop legally binding corrective action plans or closure orders on jails that are out of compliance, because enough is enough,” Cuomo told an audience at the State Capitol that included Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez and County Manager Josh Potosek.

“It was a very clear message that could easily apply to our 109-year-old jail in Monticello,” said Potosek. “While our staff do the best they can to maintain and operate it to state standards, that facility has exhausted its useful life and can no longer remain in compliance.”

New Jail Helps Sullivan Avoid Governor’s Proposed Shutdown

Interior portion of the original 1909 section of the Sullivan County Jail. Photo provided

“We were warned for many years that this day would come,” said Sheriff Mike Schiff. “I am extremely grateful that our current Legislature decided to act responsibly and build a new jail on our terms, as opposed to having the state shut us down and having to ship inmates out to other counties at great expense to the taxpayer.”

“Prior Legislatures and even the former Board of Supervisors always talked about but never acted on building a new jail, for a variety of economic and political reasons,” explained District 7 Legislator Joe Perrello, chair of the current Legislature’ Public Works Committee. “All they were doing was postponing the inevitable, as the Governor’s statement has now made crystal clear. It’s a good thing we didn’t wait any longer, or we might have been spending a lot more money shipping out inmates to neighboring jails.”

New Jail Helps Sullivan Avoid Governor’s Proposed Shutdown

19th century Bushnell Building which currently houses Sheriff’s Patrol. Photo provided

“My colleagues and I began our terms on the Legislature two years ago by taking the daunting but necessary steps to finally begin building not only a new jail but a new home for the Sheriff’s Office, whose Patrol Division is located in a building nearly a century older than our century-old jail,” noted District 5 Legislator Terri Ward, chair of the Public Safety Committee. “It was the humane choice to make, for our deputies and other County employees, as well as our inmates. It will also be far more cost-effective in the long run, from both a facilities maintenance and staffing viewpoint – and in avoiding the shutdown our current jail would most certainly have otherwise faced very, very soon.”

The new Jail and Sheriff’s Office are expected to gradually open in stages later this year, with full operation commencing in 2019.

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