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Judge hears arguments in lawsuit over possible closure of Jamesville Correctional Facility

Abigail Connolly

New York State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Lamendola heard arguments Thursday regarding Onondaga County Local Law 1-2023, which would close the Jamesville Correctional Facility and move inmates to the Downtown Justice Center in Syracuse. Following the law’s adoption last February, Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley filed a lawsuit against the Onondaga County Legislature stating the new law was illegally enacted.

Attorney Paul Leclair, who is representing Shelly, argued that the law limits Shelley’s power to operate, maintain and supervise the county’s correctional facility.

“It boils down to one thing, at the moment, legislatively, nobody is in charge of Jamesville Correctional, the penitentiary, because the only one in charge of that facility was Sheriff Shelley and they eliminated that power,” Leclair said.

Steven Williams, the attorney representing the Onondaga County Legislature, argued that local law 1-2023 does not limit Shelley’s power or authority.

“Under the old law, the sheriff had the authority to manage people and oversee them, who were sentenced, and that is currently being done at the Jamesville Correctional Facility,” Williams said. “The new law that the sheriff is challenging gives him that same exact authority. In fact, it gives him more authority because it gives him the discretion if he wants to form a corrections division or not.”

Lamendola's decision will only apply to the authority over Jamesville Correctional Facility, not whether or not the building will remain open. However, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon has indicated that the county intends to close Jamesville Correctional.

Shelley said regardless of the legislative discussions, public safety remains his number one concern.

“The semantics that the lawyers are arguing back and forth, that’s great,” Shelley said. “This was rushed on me as sheriff a year ago. A year from now I now know that closing Jamesville Penitentiary will jeopardize people’s safety. That is the true issue I am concerned about. We fail at public safety, we fail at this argument, this county will fail.”

Lamendola will announce his decision within 60 days.

Abigail is a temporary WRVO News Reporter/Producer working on regional and digital news stories. She graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2022 where she studied English and Public Relations. Abigail enjoys reading, writing, exploring CNY and spending time with family and friends. Abigail first joined the WRVO team as a student reporter in June 2022.