Connecticut’s Judicial Branch has declined an offer from the city of New Haven to pay for the judicial marshals currently staffing New Haven’s detention facility.
“We cannot accept the offer,” Rhonda Stearley-Hebert, a spokeswoman for the branch, said Tuesday.
The lockup in New Haven currently costs $1.75 million to $2 million to operate, according to New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman.
“The 35 marshals assigned to the Union Avenue lockup in New Haven and at the lockup in Hartford will be transferred to cover other courthouse vacancies resulting from the layoffs,” Stearley-Hebert said Tuesday.
A total of 103 marshals will be laid off at the end of business on Thursday. However, judicial marshals will continue to staff the detention centers in New Haven and Hartford until the close of business June 30.
Laurence Grotheer, director of communications for New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, said Wednesday that the city is pursuing multiple options with regard to the future of its detention center to “ensure public safety and cost-effective administration of the program.”
In addition to trying to continue its relationship with the judicial branch — a subject that seems to be moot — it’s looking at sharing the responsibility among neighboring municipalities or having the New Haven Police Department run it, Grotheer said.
Chief Administrative Judge Patrick Carroll III informed Harp in April of his decision to terminate the relationship started under former New Haven Mayor John Daniels in 1993.
Joe Gaetano, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 731, said Tuesday that he doesn’t understand why the Judicial Branch wouldn’t want to save the jobs of the 15 marshals working in New Haven.
He said if New Haven was willing to pay their salaries and benefits to keep everything as it has been over the past two decades, then it clearly wasn’t a budgetary issue.
“The branch has historically taken steps to work with other state agencies and municipalities to make budgets and staffing work (including the hiring of state police this week); what is different about judicial marshals and the city of New Haven?” Gaetano said.
Late last week, the Judicial Branch hired state police to staff four courthouses in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury. Stearley-Hebert said the need for their continued presence will be reviewed weekly.
The state police will earn between $60 and $75 per hour, which has Gaetano scratching his head. He said that means the branch is paying an additional $12,000 a week for security at the same time as it’s laying off security.
The state police were hired by the branch after gang activity erupted outside the courthouse on Golden Hill Street in Bridgeport.
Gaetano said he doesn’t understand why if security is an issue they are laying off 103 judicial marshals.
A total of 300 full-time and temporary Judicial Branch employees received layoff notices — most of which will go into effect at the end of the day Thursday.
“In today’s society, is the first thing you lay off frontline security?” Gaetano said.
He said most people are increasing their security.
Gaetano said that there are certain posts in the courthouse that marshals can’t leave, so if something happens they will be unable to respond in a timely manner. He said it will also place a bigger burden on the marshals who are still employed.
The stress level will be higher and it’s likely there will be an increase in workers’ compensation claims.
While many people will never have a reason to go into criminal court, Gaetano said “family court is one of the most dangerous courts because there’s lots of emotion and lots of uncertainty.”
Back in February, Carroll testified that they would like to have 840 judicial marshals, but they only have 644 at any given time due to workers’ compensation and planned leave.
Gaetano says laying off 103 judicial marshals means the branch is shy about 300 judicial marshals.
“The closing of courthouses does not mean caseloads will be reduced; it means more business will be consolidated in fewer buildings,” Gaetano said. “At the same time, the Judicial Marshals, who were already understaffed, are being further reduced.”
However, the Judicial Branch maintained that “security is and always has been huge concern for the Judicial Branch.”