Despite protesters, county gives go-ahead for jail expansion

By Jillian Marshall

Despite protesters, county gives go-ahead for jail expansion

February 20, 2014 Updated Feb 20, 2014 at 11:41 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Protesters showed up to the Broome County Legislature meeting Thursday to rally against the proposed $6 million expansion of the Broome County Jail. The legislature decided to move forward with the design of the expansion.

LaBella Associates, DPC will draw up the architectural design for the multimillion dollar renovations.

The legislature voted 10-4 on the resolution.

Sheriff David Harder said LaBella will create an architectural design for the 50-bed expansion and the jail's new medical unit.

They also built the jail and have been chosen for all necessary repairs.

LaBella was just one of two companies that bid on this project. But it was the second time LaBella was on the table. The vote was held over until Thursday because legislators tried to move forward without a competitive bid, which is against the law.

Legislative Chairman Jerry Marinich said this expansion will save taxpayers money.

"If they (prisoners) are there, then we have to take care of them. And if we're overcrowded it costs us $80 a day just to send a prisoner to another jail," Marinich said.

The county has sent 10 women and one man to jails outside Broome because they're out of room. Harder said the number of inmates fluctuates everyday.

Meanwhile, a group of Binghamton University students and residents protested the expansion. They said the county could save money by avoiding incarceration, since about three-fourths of the inmates have not been sentenced.

"A lot of people are in for small drug possession and small property crimes. We think they can be released on their own recognizance and that would lead to the benefit of the community," said Binghamton University student and protest organizer Brendan McQuade.

Harder said the courts are responsible for decisions to send people to jail and when to let people out of jail.

"They don't know what they are talking about, that's basically what it boils down to. If they're concerned about the inmates about why they are there and why they are there so long, go back to the courts," Harder said.

The sheriff hopes to have the project completed in two years, rather than the originally projected three.

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