Going to jail for you

“Have you ever been here before?”
In another situation, another questioner, it would have been just another question. But this was Undersheriff Eric Chaboty asking on my first visit to the Sullivan County Jail.
I laughed. “Can’t say that I have.”
It wasn’t the first time that I realized my job takes me places the average Sullivan County resident might never go.
Writing a story about Chaboty and his boss, Sheriff Mike Schiff, for the Democrat’s recent section devoted to our county’s “men at work,” I was being led into the hundred-year-old jail for a picture of the duo to accompany the article. And, no, I’d never been there. Fortunately.
I was, in a word, awed.
The ceilings were low – not unlike those in houses built around the same time throughout Sullivan County. The bars separating me from the county’s criminals were of thick steel, the doors creaking with age.
It was plain, but it was clean. The kitchen alone was immaculate, a sign that the people who work there are making the best of what they’re stuck with as the state makes its demands on the county and the county navigates the long road of funding the mandates.
It isn’t if we’ll have a new jail but when. As a taxpayer, I shudder at thought. As a taxpayer who has now walked through the existing structure, I understand it has to happen.
Again, I was struck by how lucky I am to work as a reporter in the county where I live. Because while many residents are uneasy about asking questions of their county officials, I pick up the phone and place a call.
I get the answers not because I’m any more special than anyone else in this county but because I’m not afraid to ask. My job? To pass on the answers to you.
The same goes for my tours of the jail, my front and center photographer’s pass for concerts at Bethel Woods… so you can go where I go.
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