Sheriff to Close Part of Jail if Budget Issue Not Resolved 

Somerset County opened the doors on a new jail in 2008, and Sheriff Barry DeLong says things started out smoothly. But he says the state has delayed approving their 2011 budget, and if nothing changes, next month he’s going to have to start sending away inmates from other counties.On any given day, Sheriff Barry DeLong says nearly half the inmates at the Somerset County Jail could be from other counties, or from the state prison system. Now he tells us he’s so frustrated over budget issues with the state, he’s ready to send them all back.”I got 49 that will be moved out July 1st if nothing changes,” DeLong says.The jail started taking in those inmates two years ago, under the state’s unified corrections system. But DeLong tells us he worries that unless budget issues are resolved soon, the cost of those inmates would fall to local taxpayers.”They’re trying to dump their burden, their inmates, on us to pick up. So yeah, it saves the state money, but the counties pick up the bill. All the counties get hit with these tax bills. They’re housing state inmates, other people’s inmates. They’re not even ours and we’re paying for them. It’s wrong,” DeLong says.He sent an email to the Department of Corrections and says he’s notified other counties.”I think it’s unfortunate and a bit premature,” says Denise Lord, associate commissioner with the Department of Corrections. “The decision by the board was to allow them to operate under their existing budget until the next fiscal year. Taxpayers in his county aren’t being asked to increase their commitment by one dollar,” she says.Lord says the board needed more time to review certain budget items — like a proposed reduction to the amount of tax money that can be raised to support the jail.”Whether he’s within his rights or not…I would rather sit down and see if we can resolve this. The budget uncertainty is only short term,” Lord says.She says the budget should be resolved by August. DeLong says, that’s not soon enough.