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Onondaga County Sheriff Responds to Potential Jamesville Correctional Closure


The Onondaga County Legislature does have the authority to close the Jamesville Correctional Facility at the direction of the Onondaga County Executive. That was the ruling from State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Lamendola on Tuesday, which dismisses the Onondaga County Sheriff’s lawsuit opposing the closure.

On Wednesday, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office:

Trouble with the truth?

Let’s talk about the Jamesville Correction Facility!

In February 2023, the County Legislature voted to close the Jamesville Correctional Facility. Sheriff Shelley asked the County Executive and the Legislature to hold off on that decision because, having only been in office for two months, he would need time to conduct a feasibility study to ensure this was prudent and safe for the residents of Onondaga County. The County chose to ignore the Sheriff’s request and moved forward. The County argued that staffing issues and a lawsuit about transporting Incarcerated Individuals(I/I) to court were the main drivers behind the closure. Having no recourse, Sheriff Shelley took legal action against the Legislature regarding their attempt to diminish the powers of the elected Sheriff. Yesterday, a judge ruled in favor of the County. The good news is this lawsuit gave the Sheriff time to get all the details and data needed to see whether closing Jamesville was a good or bad idea.

Facts are facts; the feasibility study was completed, and the data doesn’t lie.

Claim: County Executive McMahon stated that the urgency to close Jamesville stemmed from the County not meeting the terms of a 2014 court settlement regarding in-person arraignment, potentially opening the door for future liability.

1. Since taking office on January 1, 2023, under the leadership of Sheriff Shelley and the hard work of the Sheriff’s Office deputies, only two court hearings have been missed in 16 months. This number is in stark contrast to 26 missed in December 2022 before Sheriff Shelley took office. These statistics alone take the previous lawsuit off the table as a reason to close Jamesville. There was a problem, and the sheriff and his staff have rectified it.
Claim: County Executive McMahon said that the staffing issues in the Justice Center led to issues meeting the requirements. He said closing the Jamesville facility would solve the problem temporarily.

1. In December 2022, 284 deputies worked in Custody and Corrections; today, there are 325 deputies in Custody and Corrections. As the numbers dictate, 41 deputies have been added to the roster through vigorous recruiting in 16 months. Also, there are 30 more deputies in the police academy for Custody and Corrections. Once again, Sheriff Shelley addressed the problem with solutions.

2. Jail populations and where to place I/I. The downtown Justice Center currently has 480 I/I, and Jamesville has 117. Per the NYS Commission of Corrections, the Justice Center has areas closed because of repairs. Not every I/I can be placed in the same “pods” with each other because of classifications; women, of course, can’t be placed with men; people with mental health issues need to be in their area, and medical I/I have their pod. Today’s Justice Center and Jamesville female population couldn’t be combined due to lack of space.

3. Staffing and overcrowding. If Jamesville were to close today, 4/10/2024, between 80-90, I/I would have to be transported to another facility; currently, the closest one that can accept I/I is Monroe County in Rochester, and the Commission of Corrections may not approve that. The caveat is that OCSO supplies their deputies and transports them to and from court appearances, visitations, and medical appointments. One of the reasons for closing Jamesville is that staffing is unreasonable. This move alone would create the need for more staffing. The logistics of this move could create new lawsuits regarding transporting I/I to court, i.e… Snowstorms, weather-related issues, vehicle troubles, or traffic issues.


If Jamesville were to close today, the early estimates of housing the I/I elsewhere for a year would be at least 6-7 million dollars. The study conducted for this closure states that from October 2023 until now, the County would have spent six million dollars already, which is a 3-million-dollar cost to taxpayers.

Jail population trend:
Onondaga County inmate population has been trending up since February 2023, when the Legislature passed the law. The current I/I population is up 18%. The courts are remanding more people to jail, and with 7730 active warrants in the county, this trend will continue to rise.

Sheriff Shelley’s Professional Opinion:

1. Closing the jail in Jamesville to open only a jail three counties away, taxpayers will be responsible for funding and housing the movement of the I/I.
2. Transporting I/I three counties away and manning the jail there doesn’t solve staffing issues and most likely will cause lawsuits that the Sheriff’s Office has abated these past 16 months.
3. The Justice Center will be overcrowded, and OCSO must rely on jails outside the county to house I/I.

Sheriff Shelley took the oath of office to protect the citizens of Onondaga County. After reading the feasibility study and watching the I/I population numbers rise, closing Jamesville is not the right choice for the residents’ safety and is not financially prudent. In the long run, this move will cost residents millions unless the County Legislature and Executive are willing to revisit… This is why Sheriff Shelley will appeal the ruling against him yesterday to close the Jamesville Correctional Facility.

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