Families of people being detained at the Broome County Jail may soon be able to visit in person for the first time in almost two-and-a-half years.

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The New York State Supreme Court has ruled the Broome County Correctional Facility must allow visitations to resume beginning September 5 after visits were cancelled in March of 2020 at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News (file)
Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News (file)

Sheriff David Harder has appealed the ruling over health and safety concerns.

At the start of the pandemic, concentrated communities like extended care facilities and even jails were locked out from the public in an effort to contain the infection and prevent the virus from being brought into closed populations.  During the course of the pandemic, which is continuing with new variants of the coronavirus being discovered frequently, family and friends of those incarcerated locally have been able to see those being held at the correctional facility on Upper Front Street in the Town of Dickinson through a virtual link.

The group, Justice & Unity for the Southern Tier, otherwise known as “JUST”, filed a motion in May calling for the ban on in-person jail visits be dropped given that most people in the general population have received vaccination against the coronavirus.  “JUST” also cited a decline in the rates of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the county.

The Sheriff’s office maintains there is still too great of a risk of illness not only for those being held but also for officers and employees at the correctional facility.

“JUST” is blasting the Sheriff’s appeal of the decision and called the motion a delaying legal maneuver.  The group says the families and friends of people in the jail are calling on the state courts to reject the appeal.

Both candidates for sheriff say they are in favor of restoring visitations. While Republican Fred Akshar has promised to restore visitation in the first thirty days in office if he is elected, Democrat, Kate Newcomb, who is currently employed by the sheriff’s office, told local media visitations should be reinstated but health and safety of all people at the Correctional Facility is of upmost importance.

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