Officials from Bergen and Passaic counties have reached terms to a new agreement where the Bergen County Jail will soon assume the care and custody of all Passaic County inmates — and it’s got one local elected official — Steve Tanelli — elated.
The deal builds on a temporary measure adopted by both administrations this past November that allowed Passaic to transfer 200 inmates to the Bergen County Jail to alleviate additional strains brought on by COVID-19.
Authorities say the deal is mutually beneficial for both counties and reflects a growing trend toward regionalization in corrections because of new public policies including bail reform. Passaic County will avoid spending hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars on a new jail facility.
By consolidating corrections operations with Bergen County, Passaic inmates get access to a modern facility, while allowing Bergen County to better utilize the jail, which has operated at less than half capacity recently.
This deal benefits taxpayers of both counties by bringing additional revenue to Bergen and significant savings to Passaic over the 10-year agreement term.
Bergen County anticipates receiving $18.9 million at minimum in the first year of the plan and expects to gross nearly $200 million over the course of the agreement.
Passaic County is expected to save on liability and capital expenditures and reallocate law enforcement resources to better serve all its communities. It is the fourth shared services agreement between Bergen and Passaic counties.
Under the new terms, the Bergen County will receive a $104 per day for each inmate housed at the Bergen County Jail for the first two years. That rate will increase over the course of the 10-year contract, running through the end of 2031.
Passaic County is authorized to transfer a maximum of 700 inmates to the Bergen County Jail and guarantees a minimum payment supporting the housing of 500 inmates at all times, even if the actual number of inmates dips below that agreed amount.
Bergen County Executive James Tedesco discussed how the shared-services agreement reflects his overall governing philosophy.
“As county executive, throughout my time in office, the aggressive pursuit of innovative opportunities to share services, reduce duplication and save money has been a chief priority,” he said. “This new fiscally-prudent agreement once again accomplishes that goal, further expanding our strong partnership with Passaic County and benefiting taxpayers in both regions.”
Bergen County’s sheriff also seems to believe the agreement is a good one.
“I welcome this new agreement with the County of Passaic, which will soon allow us to maximize the footprint of the Bergen County Jail,” Sheriff Anthony Cureton said. “Benefiting both the taxpayers of Bergen and Passaic counties, this shared-services agreement provides adequate housing and court access in proximity to Passaic County, while maintaining care and custody in Bergen County’s accredited corrections facility.”
Meanwhile, Tanelli, the Bergen County Commissioner chairman and North Arlington resident, echoed the sheriff’s sentiments.
“This agreement is a win-win for Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties. It shows that when we work together, taxpayers will recognize real savings, and a more efficient and effective government. This administration will continue to work to look for shared service opportunities.”
The agreement was approved by the Passaic County Commissioner Board on Tuesday, Dec. 14 and was to appear before the Bergen County Commissioner Board for ratification Dec. 15.
Separately, Bergen will also enter into an additional shared-services agreement with Hudson County to assume responsibility of the female inmate population for Bergen and Passaic counties. This will allow the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office to utilize the Bergen County Jail to its maximum potential.
The female-inmate population in the Bergen facility is currently around 20, but it’s large enough to house 95. By transferring the females to Hudson County, the unit will now be able to be used to house significantly more inmates.
Lastly, authorities say no one will lose their jobs in Passaic County because of this agreement. Some corrections officers will transfer to Bergen, while others will be reassigned in Passaic.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.