Dutchess County Prepares to Open Justice Center

Dutchess County Executive William F.X. O’Neil joined Dutchess County Sheriff Kirk Imperati last Tuesday morning to recognize those involved in the development and construction of the Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center (DCJTC), a modern, new facility serving as the cornerstone of Dutchess County’s innovative restorative justice efforts, addressing the root causes of criminal activity to rehabilitate offenders for successful transition back to the community and prevention of future recidivism. The more efficient, safer facility will open more than $20 million under budget later this year and is expected to significantly reduce annual operational costs compared to the former facility.

Sheriff Imperati said, “This new facility enhances the safety and dignity of both those who are incarcerated and our correctional team who work here. It is the result of the hard work of many people coming together to address long-standing problems. I am grateful to my predecessor Sheriff Adrian ‘Butch’ Anderson, as well as former County Executive Marc Molinaro and so many others for making the Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center a reality.”

County Executive William F.X. O’Neil discussed the DCJTC at the event.
County Executive William F.X. O’Neil discussed the DCJTC at the event.

County Executive O’Neil said, “The Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center is a testament to persistence – a legacy project. Dutchess County Government has again demonstrated exceptional collaboration, multi-faceted expertise and a fierce determination to overcome challenges and implement solutions. There are so many aspects to this project – unique, progressive design; restorative justice strategy; careful budgeting and financial modelling and tracking; a highly complex construction plan and the ever-changing environment for criminal justice law; public engagement and the economic impacts on construction costs and material and labor availability – and now we stand at the finish line, ready to open this building and serve as a statewide leader for restorative justice.”

The new DCJTC will meet the County’s needs for years to come. The 161,987-square-foot facility features a larger state-of the-art medical infirmary including a women’s medical unit with enhanced medical and mental health services; expansive classroom and programming areas; professional, industrial kitchen and laundry; and improved staff areas. The design incorporates substantially more natural light than the current facility and is fully climate-controlled, creating a better environment for both incarcerated individuals and the correctional officers charged with their care.

The contemporary design employs the innovative direct supervision strategy used nationally for inmate management, and housing unit design that minimizes the need to move people from place-to-place within the facility, minimizing risk and reducing the number of required correctional officers. Compared to 12 housing units with a separate recreational area in the old building, the new 328-bed facility features six housing units, each with its own recreational area, including one female unit and units specifically designed for the RESTART program. Enhanced security features, additional cameras and improved sight lines also add to the facility’s efficiency and help provide a safer, more appropriate workplace for the County’s valued Corrections team. These staffing and operational efficiencies will result in lower annual operating costs compared to the old facility, in addition to the savings the County has already reaped from reducing housing out costs and staff attrition.

The construction of the DCJTC followed several years of analysis and research that began in 2012, when then-County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro directed the Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council (CJC) to undertake a comprehensive needs assessment to address the County’s longstanding, costly issue of “housing-out” incarcerated individuals in other counties’ jails due to lack of capacity in the Dutchess County Jail. The existing jail’s capacity was limited to 250 inmates. With daily average population reaching as high as 550, the County was forced to house out hundreds of inmates daily. Housing out was costing taxpayers up to $8 million annually and had serious, negative implications, including disruption of the judicial process, extended length-of-stay, increased risk for correctional officers, and limited access to critical programming and family visitation for incarcerated individuals.

U.S. Congressman Marc Molinaro said, “Today, the goal we set 11 years ago has been met. Dutchess County now has a modern facility with the needed space to expand the County’s nationally renowned alternatives to incarceration and restorative justice programs, increasing public safety and delivering savings to taxpayers. This new Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center will serve as a criminal justice model that helps individuals get the support and services they need to successfully return to the community. I am proud to have been part of making this day a reality and offer my congratulations and thanks to the many people who it made it possible.”

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