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LEGISLATURE STUFF - Doing Things the Right Way

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 4/17/24 | 4/17/24

By Michael Ryan

CATSKILL - It may not mean much to everyday citizens but it matters a lot that the Greene County Sheriff’s Office received Accreditation on the new jail during a county legislature meeting, earlier this week.

And actually it is deeply significant for we mules of taxation, according to New York State Sheriff’s Association executive director Peter Kehoe.

Kehoe was in the house for a legislative Public Safety committee meeting, on Monday night, telling lawmakers, “accreditation isn’t something that is available just for the asking.

“It doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of hard work by many people,” Kehoe said, mentioning jail superintendent Michael Overbaugh, Lieutenant Dan Rubino and Correction Officer/ Accreditation Officer Alan Scully.

This is the first time the Greene County jail has received accreditation, struggling for many years to stay above regulatory waters as the old lockup, on Main Street in Catskill, aged and deteriorated.

“The sheriff’s office had to meet a very strict set of standards,” Kehoe said. “There are 166 individual components, scrutinized by an outside board of assessors. They met or exceeded every one of those standards.”

Accreditation not only puts the county on solid legal and safety grounds, it also “increases public confidence in our institutions,” Kehoe said.

And the old adage, “the buck stops here,” was fitted to Greene County sheriff Pete Kusminsky, who gratefully accepted a plaque from State Sheriff’s Association president Craig Dumond.

“Everyone should be proud of this accomplishment,” Dumond said, noting the leadership of undersheriff Adam Brainard and Kusminksky.

Kusminsky, cajoled into giving a speech, spread any praise elsewhere, saying, “Officer Scully worked extremely hard for this accreditation.

“Something like this usually takes a longer time and at the same time, we’re working short-handed. This was no easy thing to do,” Kusminsky said.

The local sheriff’s department Road Patrol Division was similarly granted accreditation three years ago, returning to the fold after 30 years.

“Less than half of the State’s 62 counties have qualified for corrections accreditation, so this occasion should serve to remind you of something that I’m sure you already know,” Kehoe said.

“You have an outstanding sheriff and an outstanding sheriff’s office here in Greene County that are in pursuit of excellence in their operations.

“I think this is a particularly appropriate time for us to be doing this, for in just a couple more weeks, we will be observing National Correctional Officers Week,” Kehoe said.

“This is where the whole country is encouraged to pause and recognize the importance and difficulty of the work performed by our correctional officers.”

Correctional officers are “generally the unsung heroes of the criminal justice system,” Kehoe said.

“They spend a large part of their lives locked up behind bars with some of the worst people in our society.

“They keep us safe from those people, but they also must keep those people safe from each other.

“And they must always be mindful that some of the people in their charge are actually innocent. And they must remember always that both the innocent and the guilty are entitled to humane, respectful treatment.

“It is a tough, unenviable job that we ask these good public servants to perform, and we owe them our gratitude for their willingness to do it and to do it right.

“Here in Greene County, obviously they do it right as evidenced by this accreditation tonight,” Kehoe said.

Legislature chairman Patrick Linger, in a telephone interview said, “this is a first time deal for us and a big deal. This is the result of many people doing their jobs well.”

Recalling the old jail, Linger said, “I remember many meetings between the State Commission of Corrections and [former legislature chairmen] Wayne Speenburgh and Kevin Lewis.

“These meetings were necessary because of violations at the old jail. We absolutely were not fulfilling the requirements.

“Jails are not treated the best by their inhabitants. When we built the new jail, we took the extra steps to show the State we are doing the right thing on a regular basis,” Linger said.

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