MALONE — Increased use of video conferencing to reduce inmate court-appearance costs is among the goals Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill has in 2013.
The Sheriff’s Department takes inmates out of the jail for court, medical and dental appointments and for mental-health admissions and evaluations.
But security concerns about moving inmates from a secure setting to one that’s non-secured, the cost of travel and staff time led to implementation of video conferencing, where routine appearances before a judge take place remotely instead of having the inmate appear in person.
In his annual report to the County Legislature, Mulverhill said that in 2012 the staff made more than 1,400 trips and covered more than 60,000 miles, with an average of five trips per day, compared to 1,300 trips across 53,000 miles in 2011.
Most trips in 2012 were made to the courthouse (452), Alice Hyde Medical Center (187), other county jails (138), Malone Town Court (129) and Saranac Lake (109).
In 2011, 446 trips were made to County Court, 182 to Alice Hyde, 136 to other jails, 152 to Malone Town Court and 50 to Saranac Lake.
The sheriff hopes to reduce the number of outings in the future through the video-conferencing program.
Mulverhill said the Unified Court System has used the system, “and we’ve opened it up to the Public Defender and Conflict Resolution Office, and Probation is starting to use it.
“Eventually, we’d like to have it tied into Family Court,” the sheriff said, but criteria has to be worked out with the Unified Court administration before that can start.
He said that if usage grows and there is a need, a second video unit could be installed.
WOMEN SENT AWAY
Mulverhill’s annual report states that in 2012, 868 inmates (672 men and 196 women) were housed at the jail compared to 916 people (720 men and 196 women) in 2011.
Resignations, off-duty and on-duty injuries created a staffing shortage, but the sheriff said that using overtime to cover the hours was too expensive, so 126 female inmates were boarded out to other counties at a cost of $85 a day until September.
Another 146 inmates were boarded out, either because of overcrowding or mental-health issues.
Mulverhill said that overcrowding could have been worse if not for the Alternative to Incarceration Program, which allows non-violent offenders to be released to home monitoring.
That program saw 67 inmates housed at home and monitored with an ankle bracelet in 2012, which saved roughly $705,300, since it costs about $100 per day per inmate for housing at the County Jail.
The sheriff said the $70,000 program costs, including the $4.50 daily charge to track each offender electronically, provided a net savings of $600,000 to taxpayers.
The program started on Feb. 3, 2011, and by the end of that year, 65 people were wearing bracelets, saving the county about $500,000.
Four inmates in 2011 and then in 2012 violated the terms of their home-monitor release and returned to jail, he said.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Association purchased a Child Safe Identification System for $5,000 to provide an ID card with a photo, fingerprint and other information that can be easily accessed and forwarded to the Amber Alert System if a child is reported missing.
According to the report, the Sheriff’s Department also:
▶ Established a website, www.franklincountysheriffsoffice.us, and Facebook page.
▶ Obtained free military-surplus vehicles and equipment, including a truck and covered trailer and a 10-passenger van.
▶ Arranged for inmates to perform janitorial work, snow removal and lawn care at both the jail and Emergency Services Building next door.
“We hope to expand that to work projects to help in the community,” Mulverhill said, such as the Gleaning Program operated by the Joint Council on Economic Opportunity (JCEO).
He said inmates can’t be forced to work until they are sentenced, and that participation depends on their type of conviction, so there are few who might qualify to work outside the jail.
Email Denise A. Raymo:email@example.com