Silent Protest to be Held on Thursday, July 9, 2020

POUGHKEEPSIE – On Thursday, July 9 from 4 to 5:30 pm, a coalition of local groups will gather for a silent demonstration at the Dutchess County Office Building at 22 Market Street, urging Republican officials to join Democrats in voting to rescind $132,150,000 in bonds for a new county jail. The bond authorization, which originally passed in March 2016, will be reconsidered by the legislature’s Budget Committee at 5:30 pm.

Two hundred participants will line Market Street, standing six feet apart to ensure social distance, each holding a sign representing $1 million of the approximately $200 million taxpayer dollars needed to fund the project. Members of the public are invited to participate, wearing masks, and to bring signs proposing alternative budget priorities. Organizers will distribute 200 free masks.

“Amid the Covid crisis, Dutchess County’s fund balance is evaporating,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D-Town of Poughkeepsie). “Unless major federal aid arrives, layoffs are looming. This is a terrible time to launch the most expensive capital project in county history. We need to stop and rethink.”

Legislator Barrington Atkins (D-City of Poughkeepsie), recently appointed to fill the seat held by the late Legislator Barbara Jeter-Jackson, said, “we need alternative investments in public health, not a jail building.”

Lead organizers of the event are Democratic legislators, the Progressive Black and Latino Caucus, and ENJAN (End the New Jim Crow Action Network) of Poughkeepsie. Other participating organizations are Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson; Race Unity Circle; Stop the Violence; Beacon Prison Action; Justice for Aleesa; Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance; Hudson Valley Chapter of the NYCLU; Equitable Futures, Inc.; DSA of the Hudson Valley; Act 18 Indivisible; Dutchess Democratic Women’s Caucus; and Dutchess County Democratic Committee.

Legislator Giancarlo Llaverias, organizer of the Progressive Black and Latino Caucus, said, “the jail is nothing but a plantation to persecute and separate families who are poor and vulnerable. We must make a stand for those who are voiceless.”

In the wake of bail reform, the county jail currently holds around 140 people. The proposed “Justice and Transition Center” would build space for 328.

The jail project is projected to cost $149.8 million plus fees and interest on the debt, which generally add about 30%. Payment of the debt would add a projected $5.4 million to the 2021 county budget, rising to over $10 million per year through the 2020s, with the debt not fully paid until 2050. County taxpayers would cover 100 percent of the cost.

Alternatives to the JTC project could include renovation of the 1995 wing of the jail; space-sharing with Ulster or other nearby counties that have overbuilt their jails; or alternative, less expensive capital construction.

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