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North Country jails lose funds from housing downstate inmates

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Albany/HV: North Country jails lose funds from housing downstate inmates
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Already in the midst of a tough budget year, Warren and Washington county officials recently learned they'd be without more than $400,000 in revenue from the county jail. YNN's Matt Hunter has more on what's behind the loss and how officials plan to recoup those funds.

QUEENSBURY, N.Y. – "You don't build jails as hotels but if you have a few excess cells and you're able to generate some revenue, it's a good thing," Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Geraghty said.

As local and state governments have fought to secure every extra dollar they could, Warren and Washington county's correctional facilities have benefited from a surplus of funds by housing inmates from Dutchess County.

"In the past couple of years, we've averaged about $400,000 per year from Dutchess County in revenues," Warren County Sheriff Nathan “Bud” York said Friday.

At a price of $80 per day, per inmate, with an average of 15 to 20 prisoners at a time, the revenue quickly added up.

However, late last year, Dutchess County officials informed local sheriffs they'd no longer need the space after building new cells of their own.

"Dutchess County wants to get them closer because it's costing them a lot of money, so you can't blame them for doing it," York said.

While he declined to comment on-camera, Washington County Undersheriff's John Winchell says they were also housing close to 20 inmates from Dutchess County, and will lose in the neighborhood of $400,000 a year.

To recoup the lost funds, Warren County is looking at bringing in federal inmates and prisoners from Vermont. While it's been discussed in the past, restructuring the jail and eliminating staff remain unlikely options due to Commission on Corrections standards.

Despite the change, officials say the jail is in good position to withstand the loss.

"It is a concern, it's not an insurmountable concern for Warren County,” said Geraghty, who served as county budget officer for five years before taking on the role of chairman. “We'll work to fill those cells with whoever we can find."

"I think that with the public and the legislative has to realize is, you can't build a jail to make money," York said.

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