County forced to cut parole staff

Onondaga county officials said it gets about 40 to 50 New York state parole violators, but no money to pay for them, and there will be fewer officers to take care of them.

The state eliminated $1 million in parole payments it used give to local corrections facilities for state parole violators, according to the 2010 executive budget. The Department of Corrections of Onondaga county said it is currently trying to work with legislatures to get that money back, but does not expect it to come through due to the state's own financial crisis.

"We are all being faced with tough choices, times are hard," John Ball, 45, an administrative assistant to the commissioner said. "We still have to house them (parole violators), provide them with a secure environment, medical, dental care and three meals a day."

The number of staff at the department has decreased as the inmate population is increasing, according to their 2010 annual report. The number of staff has decreased from 320 in 1990 to 195 in 2010, or a 40 percent decrease in the department staff. Ball said the number of officers to each housing unit at the facility has decreased from six officers to only one officer per housing unit of about 60 inmates, with the exception of the most violent housing unit that has four officers guarding it. Despite staff reductions, in the past five years since 2005 the average number of inmates has increased from 377 to an average of 510 inmates this year, near full capacity for the facility according to the department.

"We had to cut six positions this year. It's a huge impact when we had a lean staff to begin with," Ball said. "We're just doing what we been doing with a whole lot less people."

The reason the department continues to get parole violators is because although the state discontinued reimbursing the county with the money for them this year, the state did not terminate the mandate that requires the department to the house parole violators, said Ann Rooney, Deputy County executive of human services.

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