EXCLUSIVE: SHORTAGE OF CO'S CONTRIBUTING TO DELAY IN MOVING INTO NEW COUNTY JAIL
Graphic showing month-to-month Sullivan County Jail population from April 2019 through April 2020.
MONTICELLO - The delay in moving inmates and employees to the new 256-bed Sullivan County Jail on Old Route 17 from Bushnell Avenue is partly due to an unannounced shortage of correction officers needed to staff the new facility, according to two sources.
In multiple public statements, Sheriff Michael Schiff and Undersheriff Eric Chaboty have maintained that the continual delay is due to the inability to complete the required training of officers at the new facility - but neither have publicly mentioned any shortage of staff.
Officially, the Sheriff's Office in early May said that four correction officers tested positive for coronavirus. However, it's believed by those familiar with the situation that the number may have grown in recent weeks. (An exact number of officers out sick or on quarantine as of June 1 has not been released).
On Friday, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a petition for habeas corpus to seek the release of four inmates from the 110-year-old facility due to the outbreak of coronavirus in which nearly half of the 72 inmates have tested positive. The NYCLU's filing in State Supreme Court, Sullivan County called the current facility a "death trap" because of inadequate protocols and medical treatment in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
"Once COVID-19 is inside a facility, correctional health and security administrators will be unable to stop the rapid spread of the virus throughout the facility," according to Dr. Homer Venters, M.D., who submitted a sworn statement as part of the NYCLU filing. "Because of the congregate nature of detention settings - including the close quarters of living spaces, sallyports, intake pens, medical clinics and other areas where staff and detainees are present, often in close proximity to one another - slowing the spread of the virus requires require considerable efforts."
The filing, as first reported by The SullivanTimes, includes many details about conditions in the facility that have not been previously disclosed by the Sheriff's Office.
The SullivanTimes previously reported about how coronavirus has impacted both correction officers and inmates, including exclusive interviews with two prisoners on G Block.
The high profile ribbon-cutting that marked the end of construction of the the new jail was in October 2019. At that time, Schiff announced that training would be needed before the move from the old facility could occur.
The County's Public Works Department issued a Certificate of Occupancy for the new facility in late January 2020, according to the February 18, 2020 minutes of the County Legislature's Public Works Committee, as seen below.
In September 2018, James Ginty, a captain in the Sheriff's Office, said that the construction management team and architect told him the the project was 99 percent complete, according to a story in the recordonline.com. That same article noted that the move was planned for the Spring of 2019.
But since late 2018, there was a problem with the water and sewer hookup to the Village of Monticello and a mistake by a contractor in mid- 2019 regarding an accidental discharge of a contaminant at the $101 million facility.
Schiff and Chaboty cite coronavirus, which did not begin until March 2020, as the main reason for the continual delay in making the move, which is now supposed to happen sometime in the next two weeks.