BATAVIA – Discussions about replacing the county jail date back approximately 50 years and work on the site has finally begun on a new facility to replace the 120-year-old jail in current use.
County and project officials gathered next to County Building No. 2 on Thursday for a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the future 184-cell facility being built at a cost of approximately $57.2 million. dollars. The new jail, when complete, will allow the county to move out of its West Main Street home, which has a number of problems, Sheriff William Sheron Jr. said – lack of space to house inmates, overcrowding, inmate classification limitations, inability to house women and inability to meet inmate needs.
After the official event, members of the transition team – the correctional officers who are part of the move from the current prison to the future facility, spoke to the Daily News about being part of the team.
Corey Cieszki said that while on leave from work at the prison, correctional officers on the transition team have already started having many meetings and meeting with people involved in the construction process.
“It’s been a big undertaking and a lot of volunteer time,” he said. “We look forward to learning as much as we can, as we understand what an opportunity it is to be a part of this historic new facility that this county so desperately needs.”
Of what it means to be part of the transition team, Cieszki said, “Essentially, we need to familiarize ourselves with our policies and procedures more than anyone else. We need to be aware of ever-changing state regulations about incarcerated people.
Things change all the time, the correctional officer said.
“There is new legislation coming for this,” he said. “He’s just learning more about what it takes to run a modern facility.
Austin Davis said, “We are going to have more access to programs like Genesee Justice as well as mental health services,” adding that these are programs that can be provided to people incarcerated in Genesee County.
“We are also going to be able to better support the county in terms of transporting inmates and not housing other people in other counties, which will significantly reduce costs to the county and an overall schedule. Right now we are spending a good amount of money to house other people to make room for the classification.
Dennis Bartholomew said the prison will move towards using a pod system… “which will allow us to monitor more inmates much more openly and with fewer staff. That’s about our biggest change .
“It will be a much safer design for our staff and for the prison population as well,” he said.
Regarding how the new prison will be an improvement over the current facility, Dani Stone, a member of the transition team, said the department would be able to house female inmates in the prison rather than to have to accommodate them in other establishments.
During the official ceremony, Sheron called the jail a vital part of keeping Genesee County residents safe.
“We are building a modern, secure facility that will expand essential programs that will help prepare incarcerated people for reintegration into society,” Sheron said.
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Rochelle Stein echoed some of County Executive Matt Landers’ comments.
“As Matt mentioned, the pauses, starts and stops of investment in humanity have not diminished the Legislature’s investment to proceed with caution and with a thoughtful view of long-term use. term of this facility,” Stein said.
Landers said the design and financing for the new prison, which will be built by The Pike Company, has been worked on for the past five years.
“The fact is, one of the county government’s responsibilities is to maintain a safe and functional jail,” Landers said. “By constructing this new facility, Genesee County is fulfilling its obligations.”