County seeks changes in accepting state parolees
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO December 10, 2013 Legislators on Thursday preliminarily approved a new approach to handle inmates paroled to Sullivan County from New York State prisons.
Sixty-seven such parolees have arrived on the county’s doorstep this year, said Legislator Cindy Gieger, chair of the Health and Family Services Committee where the resolution was discussed.
Too often, however, they’re released without a home or family to which to return, yet Sullivan County is bound by state law to accept them.
That means that if the release is, say, on a Friday evening, there are no county employees available to provide necessary placement services to the parolees.
“They [the state] can’t release them early, and they can’t release them one day late,” County Attorney Sam Yasgur affirmed.
In such cases, parolees have been left with the Village of Liberty Police Department, which is not set up to accommodate them.
“The police department ends up acting as a temporary housing unit,” Legislator Cora Edwards lamented. “... That’s an issue.”
Recent discussions between the county and state have led to promises of better communication, and the resolution legislators approved Thursday specifically directs Health and Family Services Commissioner Randy Parker to continue that dialogue.
• To reduce the release of parolees needing temporary housing or other services
• To obtain more advance and detailed notice from the state when such parolees are about to be released
• To avoid releasing parolees needing temporary housing on any evening, particularly Fridays
In a related issue, state officials want counties to avoid housing sex offenders all in one area, but considering Sullivan’s lack of available facilities, legislators agreed that Parker has the discretion to provide temporary housing wherever practical and appropriate, regardless of how concentrated the sex offender population might be.
Legislators in the Personnel Committee on Thursday unanimously (but preliminarily, pending the full Legislature meeting later this month) approved salary increases for the county treasurer, sheriff and management/confidential employees.
Each will get a one-time $750 payment this January, then get a one-percent raise in 2015, another one-percent raise in 2016 and a two-percent raise in 2017.
“It’s basically the same package we’ve given our union employees,” explained Legislator Gene Benson.
Executive sessions now recorded
Following an executive session featuring a discussion on potential litigation if a managing attorney position in the Dept. of Family Services is reinstated, Legislator Ira Steingart told the Personnel Committee audience publicly that the closed-door meetings are now being recorded.
“There was a request to record them, and in the past, we haven’t,” he explained.
The usefulness of such recordings is limited just to legislators and other “insiders,” as executive sessions are private gatherings not subject to Freedom of Information laws. The tapes will not be transcribed or released, unless a court compels the county to do so.