Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Onondaga County is under pressure from the state to do something with the over-capacity that routinely exists at the Justice Center downtown.
The Legislature has agreed to spend half-a-million dollars to study the best way to expand the facility.
Since its opening in 1995, things have changed, including some state regulations, making the once state-of-the-art justice center, one in need of a major upgrade.
One of the biggest changes is the requirement that anyone in the mental health area there be watched one-on-one, 24/7. It costs the Sheriff’s Office a lot of money and manpower to comply.
One idea is to build a new area for this population allowing a justice deputy to watch as many as three to four inmates at one time, freeing up personnel and space.
“A lot of other facilities have gone to these new designs, so it’s not something where we’ve got to reinvent the wheel, we can borrow some best practices from other counties and design a nice facility that will save money on the personnel side, over time especially,” said Dave Knapp, Onondaga County Legislator, 12th District.
Knapp says an expansion would create enough room that Onondaga County could contract with other nearby counties to bring their inmates in, which would be a revenue source for Onondaga County.
"We want to make sure we've got enough capacity there so that in five or 10 years we're not right back talking about this again. It's a little bit cheaper to build up than to build out, again it'll be right attached to the current Justice Center so a lot of the infrastructure is already in place,” Knapp said.
Knapp also says the facility was originally designed and built to expand. He says they’re looking at a few more floors, which should be enough to solve the overcrowding and personnel issues.
The plan is to have the study done around budget time next fall so the Legislature has a true picture of options and costs. Knapp says the goal is to have construction begin in 2014.