MAYVILLE, N.Y. - A local county jail has become so overcrowded that some prisoners are being given ankle bracelets and are being released early, as their cases come up before a judge.
The Chautauqua County sheriff's office says it has gone over its maximum capacity several times this year.
"It's a problem that won't fix itself and by ignoring it, we're going to have increased population," said Joseph Gerace, the county's sheriff.
The jail, which is monitored by the sheriff's office, can hold 303 inmates. But, at times has gone over that number and kept 307 or 308 offenders. The average total the sheriff's office likes to keep is 240 inmates. Right now, the jail is exceeding that number and is at 281.
So, the sheriff's office wants more prisoners to get ankle bracelets and be monitored on house arrest. Right now, only a handful are in this program.
And the sheriff's office has a big challenge to try to get the jail population down, by trying to find low-level offenders who will not be a danger to the public. Also, the sheriff needs to get the district attorney's office to agree to release these inmates from jail.
"We certainly are trying to get people released that deserve to be released or can afford to post some sort of bail. There's people over [at the jail] that don't need to be sitting there and if we can participate in getting them released we do," said David Foley, Chautauqua County's district attorney.
Foley and Gerace, both agree that they want to be responsible about who they let out of jail. Foley says there are inmates who probably could be released and monitored. The sheriff's office says the reason for the overcrowding issue has been a spike in drug-related offenses.
In the meantime, the sheriff's office spends $70 a day to incarcerate each inmate. The county could monitor some inmates at home at a cost of $7 a day.
"It's expensive for us to house them and there are alternatives that may assist that person," said Gerace.
Those alternatives include, the electronic monitoring system and mental illness and drug addiction programs.
Foley says he's hired extra attorneys in Jamestown, to try to deal with their rising caseload.
The sheriff's office does transfer inmates to some neighboring counties to lower the jail's inmate total.
Many officials in county government have ruled out the idea of adding more beds at the jail to meet the demand, saying there isn't money available to add more beds.
Instead, the sheriff has gone before the county legislature asking that the task force be created of local experts to come up with solutions to the overcrowding issue.
The county legislature is considering the idea.