JOHNSTOWN - A representative of the Fulton County Magistrates Association asked the county Board of Supervisors' Public Safety Committee on Monday to consider using the county jail as a site to hold suspects for up to 24 hoursbefore arraignment.
Johnstown Town Justice Donald Nadler spoke to the panel at the County Office Building, explaining the move would help both law enforcement and the legal community.
"There is no legal mandate that the defendant be immediately arraigned," Nadler said.
Currently, people under arrest must be arraigned prior to being held in the county jail.
About 14 counties already allow jails to house people before arraignment.
The committee last month withdrew an association proposal, mainly for liability reasons. Former Sheriff's Department Capt. Randy Benedict, who served as jail administrator, told supervisors the New York State Municipal Insurance Reciprocal, of which the county is a member, was concerned about false arrests. He also said there might not be enough jail staff for temporary inmates.
The association wanted the county jail at Harrison Street and Route 29 to hold people who have been arrested but not arraigned for up to 24 hours. The proposal would have county legislators urge state lawmakers to amend state corrections law to allow county jail cells to be used as temporary holding cells. The jail would be used to detain people being held for arraignment by a local court.
Nadler said by placing suspects in the jail immediately it would make better use of the time of deputies, who have to watch the suspects.
"This delays putting the road patrol back on patrol," the local justice said.
He also said there is a delay in having a suspect waiting overnight in a courtroom for a lawyer or public defender to represent them.
Nadler, a former jail administrator, said there is enough staff. He said when he ran the jail 15 years ago, there was an average of 117 inmates. He said that number averaged about 99 in 2011. He said he also talked to NYMIR and there is no liability from jailing pre-arraigned suspects.
He said when justices are woken up in the middle of the night, it "does disrupt their family life," although they knew what the job required when elected.
"It's not the sole reason we're looking at this," Nadler said.
Committee Chairman William Waldron told Nadler: "The committee will keep it under advisement."