Ulster County jail looking to lose boarding fees as neighboring counties change their plans

Ulster County is expected to lose nearly $1 million in jail boarding fees this year after a major client, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, opted to send overflow inmates to Albany County’s jail instead.

Meanwhile, the construction of a new jail in Dutchess County and the state legislature’s recent abolition of cash bail for many crimes could further lower average inmate counts at the 488-bed facility.

Since opening more than a decade ago after a long and costly construction process, the Ulster County Jail has provided revenue for the county in the form of boarding fees paid by other counties and the state and the federal government for lodging inmates there. The funds are funneled into the county’s general fund to help offset the tax levy. Last year, other law enforcement agencies paid $730,000 to place inmates in the county jail. In 2017, boarding fees amounted to $900,000.


But those days may be over. In a memo earlier this month, county Budget Director Burt Gulnick Jr. warned of a shortfall of nearly $1 million in projected boarding fees for 2019.

Sheriff Juan Figueroa said this week that the shortfall stemmed mainly from a decision by Greene County Sheriff Gregory Seeley to stop boarding inmates in Ulster County and send them to the Albany County Jail instead. The move occurred in January, shortly after Figueroa took office after unseating longtime incumbent Paul VanBlarcum. Figueroa said that he did not know what prompted Seeley’s decision, adding that his fellow sheriff had not returned several calls seeking to discuss the matter. (Seeley also didn’t return calls from the Kingston Times seeking comment).

“Each sheriff has responsibility for their own inmates,” said Figueroa. “And if [Seeley] wants to move them out of our county jail and board them somewhere else, that’s his prerogative.” 

The Ulster County Jail still boards a number of inmates from Dutchess County. But that could change later this year when a new and larger facility opens in Poughkeepsie. Figueroa said that he anticipated a mid-year surge in boarded inmates from Dutchess County this summer as his cross-river counterpart, Butch Anderson, makes the shift to the new jail.

But a more dramatic and long-lasting impact on the population at the Ulster County Jail could come next year when recently enacted criminal justice reform legislation takes effect. The new law would end cash bail for all misdemeanor and non-violent felony crimes. According to Figueroa, about 60 percent of the inmates in the county jail are there on bail. (The rest are serving sentences of a year or less imposed by local or county courts).

Figueroa said he expects to see a dramatic drop-off in daily inmate counts (which currently average about 300) in the months after the legislation goes into effect. Figueroa said he had spoken with law enforcement officials in New Jersey which recently enacted its own bail reform program.

But based on those conversations, and his own long experience in law enforcement, Figueroa said he thinks inmate counts will bounce back, as those granted release on recognizance fail to make court appearances or violate bail conditions and find themselves back behind bars.

“Human nature is going to dictate that a certain percentage of people, who don’t respect the law in the first place, aren’t going to come to court so we’re going to set up a warrant squad to go get them,” said Figueroa. “It’s not going to be the same numbers we have now, but I believe those numbers will level off eventually.” 

There are 8 comments

  1. Dave Channon

    One more example proving America has too many jails. It is the economic backbone of many depressed Upstate NY communities. We have more people locked up in prison than China! It is a tragic situation. But crime is going down! We must close more jails and put our money into real correction – education, job training, rehab, counseling, social workers and counselors.

  2. Local Mom

    The law enforcement center cost the Ulster County taxpayer is 99 million dollars, the original cost was supposed to be 72 million, the contract was awarded to the higher bidder, with least experience.

    Our president DA,after a grand jury investigated
    chose not to do much about this.Those costs are continuing to burden Ulster County taxpayers.

    That same district attorney, Holley Carnright, will spare no effort to put low-level offenders,
    most of them very young, in jail for decades.

    A common device that this district attorney uses is getting people to waive their habeas corpus rights, thus putting them in a position where they are more likely to take a plea to something that they didn’t do, or take a plea.

    Often people in poverty will take a play to something that a wealthier person could mount a good offense . This has a result of filling our jails and prisons largely with people from low-income backgrounds.

    That can be seen in Ulster County just as it can be seen in the rest of the country.

    Bail reform will improve this, but it’s not the entire solution.

    This DA is more interested in keeping the jail full, than in protecting the rights of Ulster County’s citizens.

    When you think of the Ulster County law enforcement center, when you think of the upcoming district attorney race, these are the things you should keep in mind.

    We need to change the way Justice is served in Ulster.

    Our priority should be to our citizens and protecting them from corruption, our priority should be protecting and serving our citizens not using them to pay our bills.

    Holley Carnright needs is stepping down,but the corporate culture of his office needs to be replaced.

    Michael Kavanagh, who is presently a prosecutor under Carnright, should not be allowed to continue on this corrupt and wrong-headed approach to prosecution.

    I suggest looking into Dave Clegg as a new way to Serve and Protect, a new way to preserve order while protecting the rights of Ulster County residents.

    1. Floater

      Lady, you are right as right can be, on all counts. In 1998, Paroli’s bag man jumped off the pier at Phil Rizoto’s (sic.) on the Ulster side of the river the night before he was to be interviewed by the FBI. The Ulster County DA then found no need to investigate for possible murder, and the incident was pronounced a suicide instead. That was a good one.

  3. LTL

    Maybe the jail space can be used for rehab and Mental Health programs. Ulster County needs to expand and strengthen the Mental Health Dept. and programs that were severely cut back in the last few years. Maybe the jail can be a shelter for homeless and people who have behavioral issues in the community but are not criminals.
    They could use the extra space for a transitional program from jail to the community. Maybe these places already exist….i’m just throwing ideas out there.

  4. Sal Capaci

    There’s big money in keeping people from being free. These larger jail complexes were built with the specific intent of generating revenue and to keep lawyers, judges, and law enforcement thriving, while destroying lives in too many cases where a so-called crime was no more than a prohibitive law broken that should probably be abolished.

  5. Ernest Goes To Ulster

    Good. I’m glad the County is losing more money. That’s because it puts more pressure on the Department of Taxation and Finance to explain its doings and non-doings (i.e. sins of omissions and sins of commission). The new County executive has even less of a clue than her predecessor. How come her photo hasn’t been posted on the County website where his used to be?

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