With declining population, county requests prison assessment | News, Sports, Jobs

Chautauqua County’s prison population has nearly halved since bail reform took effect. Photo by Gregory Bacon

MAYVILLE — With fewer people remaining behind bars due to bail reform in New York City, Chautauqua County is considering a prison assessment.

Undersheriff Richard Telford has met with the Legislature Public Safety Committee to request $111,800 for a “The prison needs an assessment.” The money would come from the American Rescue Plan Act, which emanates from the federal government.

“We are looking to assess what we need in the prison, the staff, what our population is and where we can improve,” said Telford. “Basically it is a needs assessment of the prison to look at our accommodations, our kitchen, what we can improve and where we should be heading in the prison.

Telford was asked about the prison population. He noted that before the bail reform laws in 2020, the jail had around 300 people a day, but has since dropped.

“It’s been around 150 to 170 over the last few months,” he said.

Part of the study, Telford said, is to look at trends and try to project what the population will look like in the future.

“If they find out we’re going to stay at that number, which direction are we going?” he said. “If they think there are going to be bail reform adjustments and our population is growing, what do we do about it?”

Telford was asked about the federal inmates in the jail. He said that of the 170 there today, about 40 are federal inmates. The county currently receives $94 per day per federal inmate. This cost is expected to reach $114 with a new negotiated contract.

“We have to be careful. Are there other prisons that offer a lower cost and will the federal government take more away from us? We don’t expect that, but it’s a balancing act,” he said.

The Public Safety Committee approved spending the money for the prison needs assessment. The resolution will go to the full legislature on Wednesday for final approval.

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