Legislators, county administration and sheriff's office officials met Jan. 31, 2023 to discuss the future of Jamesville Correctional Facility. Legislators will vote on the proposal next week. Credit: Chris Libonati | libonati@centralcurrent.org

Onondaga County’s proposal to close and merge Jamesville Correctional Facility with the downtown Syracuse jail will likely head to a vote next week, Legislature Chairman Jim Rowley said.

“I don’t have a reason not to let it come to the floor,” Rowley said after a three-hour meeting of the Onondaga County Legislature’s ways and means committee on Tuesday.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, such as legal action or intervention by the New York State Commission of Correction, Rowley said he will sponsor the proposals discussed at the meeting.

Legislators, county leaders and sheriff’s office officials rehashed information from earlier committee meetings on the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.

The county submitted a written proposal to the Legislature that included two measures.

One called for the elimination of jobs at Jamesville and the creation of jobs at the jail, and set a deadline of April 1 for the transition.

The other amended the sheriff’s powers by cutting references to “corrections” in certain portions of the county charter. County attorneys argued that the amendment expanded the sheriff’s powers rather than reduced them and did not affect his ability to create a corrections division.

Democrats and Sheriff Toby Shelley have criticized the latter measure.

Shelley asked for more time to gather more information on the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’m not sure why we have to rush this,” Shelley said. “If it’s a good idea, it’ll pass the test of time.”

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon and former Sheriff Eugene Conway introduced the proposal in December, just before Conway left the position.

The county has argued that closing Jamesville will fix a critical staffing problem at the jail that has prevented incarcerated individuals from attending in-person arraignments.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Shelley said he hopes the state Commission of Correction gets involved in the closure. The agency sent a letter to the county in January urging it to do a thorough review.

A deputy commissioner from the agency is visiting the sheriff’s office on Wednesday, Shelley said.

“I really think you cannot avoid the Commission of Correction in this discussion,” Shelley said. “They will be here tomorrow.” 

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Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or libonati@centralcurrent.org.