The Center for Research Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) began a study in January 2010 that looked into the possible collaboration among area counties to find efficiencies in the operations of their county jails.
The study was led by Gerald Benjamin the director of CRREO Joshua Simmons research associate at CRREO. According to Benjamin and Simmons.
As stated in a CRREO discussion in spring 2009 titled “A Collaborative Regional Approach to jailing in the Hudson Valley,” the combined spending to operate jails in Putnam, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, Sullivan, Greene, Rockland and Columbia counties was $92,989,892 million. The project to build the new Ulster County jail would have had the final cost of $95.5 million. The researchers at CRREO understood that some formal intergovernmental agreements among counties would have to be made in order to keep these jails still running adequately.
According to both Simmons and Benjamin, CRREO began by developing an advisory group that consisted of representatives from each of the counties that were under study.
The advisory group included a wide range of people from jail administrators to county legislators and county executives. Representatives from the probation department, the district attorney’s office and individual subject matter experts all contributed to ensure that the process of the study was collaborative.
Simmons said this technique is a way to ensure they were “asking the right people the right questions and hopefully getting the right answers.” After developing this group of respected representatives from each county, CRREO researchers toured jail facilities and conducted interviews with the head administrators of each of the county jails, according to Simmons.
According to Benjamin , through this process they discovered what the areas in which jail operations could be improved including boarding in and out inmates, jail capacity in the region, crime rates and demand for jail space. As they reviewed these results they entered the final stage of their study, producing various proposals for improving these jail operations.
Suggestions include using closed facilities to meet the demand for jail space, taking advantage of part time officers to avoid overtime cost in staffing, and connecting the county jails to a single health care provider as well as a transportation loop to eliminate the need for security at a health care facility during treatment, according to the study.
Benjamin said he supported “electronic collaboration and the use of common technologies” such as video court appearances and video visitation.
“I think that in general, collaboration is an excellent way to achieve efficiencies in many government functions,” said Simmons. “As we are seeing the current climate looking bleak governments are turning more and more toward collaboration and shared services to provide the same quality service at reduced cost to the tax payer.”
According to Benjamin and Simmons, the Local Government Efficiencies program of the Office of the Secretary of State for New York provided the Hudson Valley counties with a grant to explore the rising costs of county jail construction and demolition.
All but Greene chose to participate in the study.