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TOWN OF FRIENDSHIP MAY GET ANOTHER SHOT AT LANDING NEW MAXIMUM-SECURITY JAIL

The Allegany County Town of Friendship, which lost out on a chance to house a new state prison last year, may get another opportunity.

After allocating $180 million last year for a new, 750-cell prison that will be located in the Seneca County Town of Romulus, Gov. Pataki made an identical call for another maximum-security facility in this year's budget.

But one town official didn't sound too optimistic Wednesday about Friendship's chances for success.

"We don't feel we stand a prayer because we don't have the political clout other counties do," said Town Council Member Richard Shelley. "We have 50,000 people in the county. The votes aren't here to influence the governor and the legislature to put it here."

State Sen. Dale M. Volker, R-Depew, is not ready to write off the Friendship site, however. He is chairman of the Senate Codes Committee, which oversees criminal justice and corrections.

"It's very possible," Volker said. "I think Friendship could be a leading candidate. But I would be surprised if the choice (of a site) would happen this year."

The state's history has been to open no more than one major prison a year, he said. One maximum-security prison is opening in Franklin County this year. Ground is set to be broken on the one in Romulus later this year, with a scheduled opening in 2000. The prison proposed in this budget likely would not open until 2001.

Overall, the governor, continuing his "get-tough" approach to crime, increased spending for criminal justice agencies to $2.36 billion, up $70.6 million from last year.

Among the highlights:

Shift to local municipalities all the cost of jailing some low-level offenders sentenced to short stays in jail. Currently, the state reimburses those localities $17 per day per prisoner. If that stipend were eliminated, the state would save $12.5 million this year and $25 million in 2000-01.

Volker was skeptical about enactment of that proposal. "In all honesty, that's going to be very tough to sell to the legislature," he said. "We have had a policy of doing nothing that unfavorably impacts on county budgets."

Funding to operate the new Franklin County prison, a cost of $21 million.

An $18.2 million allocation to begin the phased replacement of the state police's aging aviation fleet.

Installation of a new statewide Public Safety Communications System, at a cost of $10 million.

A savings of $5.7 million by shifting inmates from residential substance abuse facilities to programs operated in under-utilized work release facilities.

A savings of $1.6 million by consolidating prison infirmaries at correctional facilities that are near each other.

The governor will also push several pieces of legislation:

A bill that would allow the state to detain violent sexual predators in secure mental health settings after they have served their sentences.

A juvenile justice package that would increase penalties for violent crimes, give longer terms for violent offenders, allow for restitution or community service along with any jail sentence and increase from 16 to 18 the age limit for a child to be under court supervision as a "person in need of supervision."

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