Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon sent a letter to state officials earlier this week outlining the basic logistics of his plan to close Jamesville Correctional Facility.

The plan, labeled a “concept overview,” provides broad details about how the jail could be closed:

  • Corrections officers from Jamesville will receive two days of classroom training and eight days of field training at the jail. The classroom training will happen off shift hours for transitioning corrections officers.
  • Incarcerated individuals from Jamesville Correctional Facility could be moved in groups of eight to 10 people twice per day, including on weekends. The process would take about two weeks, the county executive estimates.
  • The county executive’s office anticipates the jail can accommodate all of the county’s incarcerated individuals. If it can’t, the county executive proposed boarding out individuals to jails in other counties.

County spokesman Justin Sayles said McMahon’s letter “merely serves as a blueprint” and that Sheriff Toby Shelley’s plan would “ultimately drive the process.”

Tom Newton, a spokesman for Shelley, said sheriff’s administration officials read the letter. Shelley said after county legislators voted to close Jamesville that he would not move incarcerated individuals until the state Commission of Correction evaluated its feasibility.

“We’re keeping people at Jamesville,” Newton said in response to McMahon’s letter.

Onondaga County legislators voted last week to close Jamesville Correctional Facility over objections from Shelley. McMahon and former Sheriff Eugene Conway presented the proposal in December.

McMahon’s response to the state came after much back and forth between the county, the sheriff’s office and the state about who would respond to the state’s request for a plan to close Jamesville.

Two weeks ago, officials from the state Commission on Correction sent a letter to McMahon’s office requesting more information about his plan to close Jamesville by Feb. 14.

In that letter, commission Chairman Allen Riley wrote that the commission could file a petition for judicial intervention if it believed its minimum standards for a correctional facility were about to be violated.

Legislators then voted last week to direct Shelley to respond to the commission by Feb. 28.

But on Tuesday, McMahon responded to the commission.

A commission spokesperson said they are still reviewing McMahon’s letter.

The point in McMahon’s plan about sending incarcerated individuals to outside counties could have a significant impact on families of those incarcerated.

During a public comment period before legislators voted to close Jamesville, community member Yvonne Griffin commented on how this policy could hurt a family’s ability to visit their loved one.

Griffin said people on parole or probation who have restricted movement outside the county would particularly be hurt by that decision.

The letter noted that if incarcerated individuals routinely had to be moved to other counties, the county may have to add to the size of the jail.

“In the long-term, if the population remains elevated, considerations for the construction of a fourth Justice Center tower will be revisited,” the letter said.

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