Passaic County gives go-ahead to demolish jail in Paterson, fund redevelopment project

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Two years after endorsing the Passaic County Jail’s closure, county commissioners have approved its demolition.

Commissioners on Thursday morning unanimously approved a $7 million capital ordinance to fund a redevelopment project on the county jail site in downtown Paterson. The project’s main aim is to demolish the 66-year-old jail and clear the site fronting Marshall, Grand and Main streets for future county use, records show
County officials agreed to spend $6 million on the project using money exclusively from its asset sales reserve fund, according to the ordinance. The remaining $1 million is due to arrive from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs through a 2024 fiscal year appropriation from the state’s property tax relief fund, state records show.

The jail held about 700 inmates before officials in December 2021 confirmed a plan to regionalize operations at the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack. Bail reform in 2017 helped reduce the jail’s population from more than 1,000 at times to less than capacity by prohibiting courts from granting or denying bail based on economics.

Conditions at the aging jail have been highly criticized over the years by inmates as well as politicians and social justice advocates. Its closure, a 10-year shared service agreement with Bergen County that started in 2022 and a more recent overflow agreement with Hudson County allowed the county to reassign officers to duty elsewhere and reallocate jail expenses.

In 2021, the county spent nearly $45 million on jail salaries and other related expenses, according to county budget documents. That total fell to less than $34 million in 2022 and is expected to drop to less than $27 million in 2023. Sheriff’s Office salaries, meanwhile, increased from about $28 million in 2021 to more than $35 million in 2022, records show. County commissioners budgeted more than $41 million for 2023.

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