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Lewis County jail compliant with state staffing regulations


LOWVILLE — Lewis County jail now is compliant with state requirements for corrections officer staffing, but the move carries an estimated $120,000 annual price tag.

An anonymous tip to the state Commission of Correction put the jail in the state’s spotlight. A call to the jail got the problem fixed last week.

“We received a phone call from the commission,” Lewis County Sheriff Michael P. Carpinelli, said Thursday. “They said, ‘This can be rectified.’”

The issue stems from a study done by the state after Mr. Carpinelli took office in January 2012.

“The state did their staffing analysis and strongly suggested that we needed to have additional manpower on night shift,” Mr. Carpinelli said. “The state mandates a certain amount of manpower on the night shift. For us, it’s always been only two officers on at night.”

After the state’s initial suggestion to increase night staff, “We were given time to reply with our own staffing analysis,” Mr. Carpinelli said.

His own study, he said, indicated “two is enough. The jail population is secure in their cells from 11 at night until seven in the morning. There is no reason for them to come out.”

In the event of a fire or other disaster, Undersheriff James M. Monnat said Monday, “We would call in road patrols and New York State Police.”

Mr. Carpinelli said he received word from the state that two officers were not enough to meet standards, but never received a formal answer.

The state now says three corrections officers must be on the night shift, one of whom is at least the rank of sergeant, regardless of the number of inmates.

Maximum capacity at the jail is 42 inmates, with an average of 37 inmates in custody.

Because dispatchers count as corrections officers, “technically, we have four on at night,” Mr. Carpinelli said, but there is no sergeant.

“What that does is puts a burden on the taxpayers,” Mr. Carpinelli said, estimating the added hours will cost around $120,000 a year.

New staffing procedures went into effect Friday.

Mr. Monnat detailed other issues temporarily hounding the department.

“Right now, we have four guys in correction school and one full-time CO off for an injury,” he said.

The four in corrections school were hired on a part-time basis. They will graduate from the program April 26.

The department employs four sergeants, who work 12-hour shifts.

Hiring an additional sergeant is not yet possible, as there are only two eligible candidates. A civil service list is not valid to hire from unless it contains three candidates.

In the meantime, the department is operating with current staff accruing an unusual amount of overtime.

John O. Boyd, D-New Bremen, the Legislature’s Courts and Law Enforcement Committee chairman, said he had just learned about the issue of noncompliance last week.

He said the county will pay for the extra cost with money from its reserve fund.

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