Sullivan County – County Jail Operations (2013M-33)

Issued Date
June 14, 2013

Purpose of Audit

The purpose of our audit was to examine County jail operations and related costs for the period January 1, 2011, to October 5, 2012.


Sullivan County is located in the southern part of New York State and has a population of 77,547. The County Legislature is the legislative body responsible for managing County operations and is responsible for the oversight of fiscal matters. The County’s 2013 adopted budget included appropriations for all funds of $192.7 million. In addition, the County reported a net cost to operate the jail of $10.5 million for the 2011 fiscal year, or 5.5 percent of the County’s total expenditures for 2011.

Every county in NYS is required by law to maintain a jail. The County’s jail was constructed in 1909 with 37 cells and is the oldest jail in NYS. Subsequent additions were built in 1957, 1985, and 1989 with the addition of 52, 82, and 36 cells. The NYS Commission of Correction (COC) officials told us, and informed County officials, that the jail does not meet many current minimum standards for housing inmates.

Key Findings

  • County officials are spending more money to operate their current jail than if they were to build a new jail with a more efficient design and a larger capacity. The cost of a new jail would be fully offset by payroll, inmate boarding and facility cost savings within 33 years, with projected savings over the 50-year life of the new jail of $108 million.
  • Moreover, because of the larger capacity, the County could also collect revenues for boarding inmates on behalf of other counties or the Federal government. This could further reduce the breakeven point and increase the projected savings.
  • The current jail does not meet COC standards and may be forcibly closed. Although County officials have obtained cost estimates to build a new jail, efforts have stalled multiple times. The delay in building a new jail is risking inevitable expenditures the County can ill afford, whether it is from escalating construction costs or the greater costs that would be necessary if the County had to board-out all of its inmates because COC forced the County to close its jail.

Key Recommendation

  • Consider the advantages of replacing their jail sooner than later.