Essex, Union counties receive LEAP grant for correctional facility consolidation

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Essex and Union counties will share in a $250,000 state grant to assist in covering transitional costs related to the consolidation of Union County Correctional Facility operations within the Essex County Correctional Facility. The Division of Local Government Services of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs provided the funding through a Local Efficiency Achievement Program Implementation Grant.

“I commend both Union and Essex counties on implementing this record-breaking cost-saving agreement in New Jersey. It is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with shared services when counties come together to achieve greater efficiencies,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who also serves as DCA commissioner. “The substantial cost savings realized by the consolidation of correctional services will help alleviate the property tax burden on Essex and Union county residents and businesses.”

The agreement potentially would provide Essex County with about $11.3 million in revenue annually and would save Union County approximately $20.6 million annually, according to press releases from both Essex and Union counties.

“LEAP grants are proving to be a powerful tool by giving local government entities the leverage they need to move shared service agreements forward,” DLGS Director Jacquelyn Suarez said. “And I’m excited to learn that this implementation grant has produced the most substantial cost-savings through a shared services agreement in New Jersey to date.”

“For the past three years we have been working with the Murphy administration on a bipartisan basis to move shared models of governance forward with local leaders to help them defray costs,” said the two New Jersey shared services czars, former Harding Mayor Nicolas Platt, a Republican, and former Summit Mayor Jordan Glatt, a Democrat. “This county correctional facility consolidation will result in enormous taxpayer savings and is a big win for Union and Essex counties.”

The consolidation reflects broad trends in criminal justice. The number of incarcerated persons in the Union County Correctional Facility fell 67 percent during the past 10 years, from more than 1,000 prisoners to approximately 345 at the beginning of 2021. As a result, detention costs per inmate more than doubled during the same time period.

Part of the Union County Correctional Facility remains in operation as an intake hub and temporary detention facility. Union County will use its portion of the LEAP Implementation Grant to purchase a body-imaging scanner for the hub facility.

The agreement with Essex County is part of the Union County Board of County Commissioners’ ongoing efforts to respond to significant changes in the criminal justice system, resulting in a more effective use of public funds. In 2019, Union County also closed its Juvenile Detention Center, saving $24.6 million a year, sending its detainees to the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center in Newark.

“This award recognizes the significant savings to Union County that will be provided by the consolidation of operations with Essex County, and I would like to thank all those who worked to make the transition progress smoothly and on schedule,” Union County Commissioner Chairperson Alexander Mirabella said.