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Proposition for Onondaga County voters would transfer management of jail to sheriff

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News File Photo
The Onondaga County Justice Center in Syracuse.

A proposition on Tuesday’s ballot for Onondaga County voters would transfer control of the Jamesville Correctional Facility from the county executive to the sheriff’s department. The move is meant to save money and was approved by the Onondaga County Legislature.  

The sheriff’s department already oversees the justice center in downtown Syracuse. Sheriff Gene Conway said Onondaga is the last county in New York State to operate its jails under two separate administrations.

“We are unfortunately either full or almost full in our facilities, most of year," Conway said. "It’s a concern going forward about how do we maximize the efficiencies that may be available in both facilities so that we can avoid costs.”

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said having the two jails come together under the sheriff will allow for more flexibility. She said the justice center can be overcrowded and yet, still have empty beds.

“It’s because we can’t house women with men," Mahoney said. "We will have a few women and a lot of empty beds in their pod in the public safety building. With smaller pods at Jamesville, we can minimize that waste of beds and avoid having to send people out to other counties which is a lot more expensive.”

When jails are full, Onondaga County pays a daily rate to an adjoining county to house inmates. Conway said in a month's time, with fewer than 20 inmates boarded out, Onondaga County was charged almost $30,000.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.