Onondaga County jail. Credit: Chris Libonati | libonati@centralcurrent.org

The proposal to close Jamesville Correctional Facility is expected Tuesday to clear its final hurdle before being eligible for a vote by the Onondaga County Legislature. 

After the Legislature’s ways and means committee reviews the county administration’s proposal, it can be moved to a vote as soon as the next Legislature meeting, on Feb. 7. 

This is the first time legislators will be reviewing a written proposal. County Executive Ryan McMahon and former Sheriff Eugene Conway introduced the idea at a December press conference, but a resolution had not been drafted outlining the basics of a plan until now. 

The plan to close Jamesville is laid out in two resolutions with the following steps: 

  • Set an April 1, 2023 deadline for the closure.
  • Abolish all positions at Jamesville.
  • Allow for the creation of similar positions at the Onondaga County jail.
  • Remove any mentions to corrections officers from the Onondaga County Sheriff’s job duties described in the county charter. 

Many of the details of the resolutions had been discussed by legislators earlier this month.

The county has pitched the closure as a last resort to a staffing problem. County administrators say staffing shortages have led to defendants missing in-person court appearances and arraignments. 

“This is the one that is left to us,” Deputy County Executive Ann Rooney said at a meeting about the closure of Jamesville earlier this month. 

The county’s inability to get defendants to arraignments and appearances could be a violation of incarcerated individuals’ constitutional rights and a violation of a court settlement the county entered into in 2014. 

Merging the jail and correctional facility is complex. Several factors have be considered, including the unions at each facility, and classifications of those jail. 

Some incarcerated people cannot be held in the same cells because of gang affiliations or levels of dangerousness, as determined by the state. 

Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley and members of his office have said they need more time to determine whether to close Jamesville, and how long it would take. The New York State Commission of Correction told Shelley’s leadership team that closing the facility could take as long as five to seven years, Shelley said. 

The commission oversees any plans to close a jail in the state. 

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