The Effect of Incarceration Policy On The Fiscal Crisis In Suffolk County, NY

Debra Beattie Writers:

“Suffolk County, NY projects that it will be 530 million over budget over the next three years.  Executive Steve Bellone has declared a fiscal emergency and has cut every department’s funding by ten percent.  While the new 185 million dollar jail in Yaphank is beginning to be populated with inmates, county employees at John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility are receiving pink slips in preparation of shutting the facility down.

Last night about 150 inmates were driven upstate to State prisons because there was not enough room, even with cells having cots to double up occupancy. Suffolk county jails operate at over occupancy levels consistently. The cost of housing an inmate to the county is well over $125/day. Many of the inmates that are held in these facilities have been accused of non-violent crimes and are being held on bail less than two thousand dollars.  Bond companies do not service such low bond values, those that are unable to afford low bonds must languish in jail until their trial, sometimes up to two weeks.  During that time they are separated from their families, unable to work if they are employed, and unable to prepare properly for their defense.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has recognized that in regards to bail, the judicial treatment of the poor is unjust. Last July he passed a law which allows charities to be authorized and regulated by the Department of Financial Services.  Agencies are now allowed to provide bail to those that can not afford it in instances that the accused has a bail of less than two thousand dollars and is being charged with a non-violent crime. The problem is there is no charitable agency in Suffolk County. Hundreds of defendants are being held in Suffolk County jails at an enormous cost to the county which can not afford it.  We need to create a charitable agency to assist these inmates as soon as possible.”

You can contact Debra via email at

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