Updated 08/20/2012 08:30 PM
Out-of-state inmates at the Albany County Jail?
Albany County faces a potential $16 million budget gap, but it may have found a way to close it by bringing criminals from other states to Albany. Our Solomon Syed has more on this unusual proposal.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- The Albany County Jail is designed to keep law-breakers in, but it may open up its gates to out-of-state criminals to lock down the inmate on its most wanted list: Money! The Albany County Correctional Facility currently has 400 empty jail cells.
"Let's fill the cells," said Craig Apple, Albany County Sheriff.
That idea would've seemed suspect until last week, when a new law made the Albany County Correctional Facility the first, and only, jail in that state to house out-of-state inmates.
"We need to think outside the box," said Dan McCoy, Albany County Executive.
States like Vermont have severely overcrowded prisons. For a daily fee, the Albany County Jail would offer its extra space and manpower to lock up some much-needed revenue: an estimated $2.5 million from this arrangement, with the possibility for more.
"For the taxpayers of Albany County to offset what we do at the jail, but it's a new revenue source," said McCoy.
... at the cost of bringing in criminals from outside New York. But Sheriff Apple says his jail already accommodates more than 150 inmates from other counties, so this wouldn't be anything new. Plus, the law limits the boarding period for out-of-state inmates to 24 months.
"Let's face it. If you're a murder, you're in for a lot longer than 24 months, so we aren't getting their 'bad guys,' we are looking at first-time offenders," said Apple.
The state of Vermont is expected to put out an application to house 100 overflow prisoners sometime in September.
"We offer a lot better services than most jails. We're starting up video visits with inmates, we have state of the art medical, and we're close, and it also is good income and revenue for Albany County which desperately needs it," said Apple.
Sheriff Apple cautions that nothing's set in stone and the county still has to compete for a contract to provide these services. However, if they win a bid from the state of Vermont, the county could collar as much as $5 million.