Landowners will pay

Though the precise figures are not yet known in Madison County, law enforcement heads say proposed changes in the Rockefeller Drug Laws will cost local property taxpayers. That's who will foot the bill when more drug offenders are on the streets with vastly reduced supervision, officials say.

The reforms would shorten long-term state prison sentences and put those inmates in local jails, and probation would be an option for more offenders, according to Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties.

"Shifting long-term state prison sentences to shorter-term local jail sentences and probation comes at a cost," Acquario said. "County probation offices and jails do not have the capacity to handle the increased caseload these reforms will produce, especially as the state budget slashes more than $20 million in funding to counties for current probation and jail cost obligations."

"We had better get ready for this one locally," said Madison Count Probation Director Karen Birch. "Our state association, the Council of Probation Administrators, has been discussing this and the local impacts our departments might expect statewide."

Madison County Sheriff Ronald I. Cary said his department, which oversees the Madison County Public Safety Building facilities, is in the same position as probation.

"We do not have any hard data readily available at this time," Cary said. "However, in reviewing the revisions, I feel that there would be a significant impact on the local correctional agencies. The focus of incarceration would be shifted from state facilities to local correctional facilities."

That could mean an increased demand for corrections officers locally, possibly expanded facilities or leasing jail space from other counties with capacity. All those options would be an extra burden on the county's coffers.

But there's also more lost revenue from the state in other areas, Cary said.

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