Suffolk County's new jail in Yaphank, once dubbed the "Taj Mahal" by County Executive Steve Bellone, is open and housing inmates.
Constructed at a cost of $185 million, Newsday reported that 105 inmates were transfered to the new Yaphank correctional facility from the Riverhead jail this past week, approximately one year behind schedule. An additional 105 inmates are expected be transfered from Riverhead to Yaphank weekly until the new facility is operating at full capacity.
The new correctional facility is one of the county's largest construction projects in more than three decades. It was built under a 2004 state mandate from the Commission on Corrections to ease overcrowded conditions at the Riverhead jail.
The new building has a modern design aimed at allowing one correctional officer to oversee up to 60 inmates living in one residential pod. A correction officer can monitor 40 inmates at the Riverhead jail.
All Yaphank prisioners will live in one of six residential pods, each of which has its own 60-foot by 60-foot indoor recreational area with a basketball hoop and oversized garage door designed to allow light in.
Also, each residential pod also has rooms where inmates can access a computerized library. The chapel is also wired for cameras to allow prisoners to see religious services via television.
The new facility's opening increases the county's inmate capacity to 1,831 beds, a net increase of 156. A planned second phase will increase the facility's capacity by an additional 440 beds.
• Suffolk Sober Home Act Introduced in Albany
Legislation designed to more carefully monitor and oversee sober living homes operated in Suffolk County has been proposed in the state legislature by State Sen. Lee Zeldin.
Under the proposed legislation, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services will work in conjunction with Suffolk County and the County's Group Home Oversight Board, to develop rules and regulations necessary for the certification and operation of a sober living home in Suffolk.
"The mission of a sober living home is to promote recovery and help these individuals to eventually become self-supporting," said Zeldin, R-Shirley. "In order to meet this mission, residents must be afforded a safe, sanitary, and secure environment. But there are far too many sober living home operators in Suffolk County who fail to provide the atmosphere necessary for residents to be successful."
The legislation proposes all sober living homes would have to be inspected before certification. These homes would be required to operate in accordance with all federal, state and town building codes. The operator would also be required to show good moral character and have experience working with individuals with substance abuse disorders.
Sober home owners and operators could be fined or lose their license certification if they fail to meet living standards outlined by the legislation. Any owner operating a sober living home without proper certification would be fined $10,000.
The bill would create a toll-free hotline to receive and respond to concerns or complaints regarding sober living homes in Suffolk.
• Bellone Looks To Keep Foley Nursing Home Open
After months of struggles, County Executive Steve Bellone may have the votes he needs in the county legislature to strike a deal and keep the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility open.
Newsday reported that if county employees vote on a union pact this Tuesday that could guarantee their wages and benefits for 18 months after privatization.
Following the union vote, Bellone would then need 12 out of the 18 lawmakers to approve for the deal to sell the facility. A $23 million agreement to sell the nursing home was approved in 2012, but then shot down by a state committee and blocked by a lawsuit filed by county workers backed by Legis. John Kennedy, R-Nesconset, and Legis. Kate Browning, WF-Shirley.
The current proposed deal involves leasing the facility to cover the county's annual responsibility for a roughly $12 million subsidy needed to keep the 264-bed facility operating.