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Jail Population Study Report Released

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Jail Population Study Report Released

Friday, July 14, 2017

Tompkins County today released the final report from a wide-ranging, six-month-long population study related to capacity issues at the Tompkins County Jail. 

The Tompkins County Legislature late last year retained the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) to conduct the criminal justice and jail population trend analysis.  The Legislature initiated the jail study process after the New York State Commission of Correction announced its intent to revoke the Jail’s long-standing 18-bed variance (since then, temporarily reinstated) that has allowed the Jail to operate above its 82-bed capacity.

The study report, entitled “An Assessment of the Future of the Tompkins County Jail,” is posted at CGR’s project website at www.cgr.org/TompkinsCrimJust/documents.  The project website may also be accessed through the Tompkins County home page at www.TompkinsCountyNY.gov (See “Popular Links – Tompkins County Jail Population Study.”)

As the core conclusion from its study, CGR states:

“There is no convincing rationale for building a new jail, or for expanding the number of beds in the existing one.  Indeed the opposite is true:  significant reductions in jail population are highly likely by 2020 and beyond, based both on Tompkins County population projections over the next 25 years and bed days that can be saved as a result of more effective use and expansion of selected ATI [alternatives-to-incarceration] programs and community-based initiatives.”

Citing the County’s “impressive array of alternative programs,” CGR concludes that “more can be done to expand the impact of these and other emerging initiatives” to make possible lower numbers of occupied jail beds per night. 

By 2020, CGR projects an average number of occupied inmate beds per night of between 46 and 54, well below the County Jail’s 82-bed official capacity (assuming removal of the 18 variance beds.) 

The CGR report, in part, recommends 

  • Not building a new jail or expanding the number of beds in the existing jail facility.
  • Within a year, beginning to implement inmate-reduction strategies—including expanding substance abuse assessments and access to residential rehab treatment; increasing the impact of Pre-Trial Release; expanding use of electronic monitoring and misdemeanor Drug Court; and supporting creation of non-jail medical detox capacity.
  • For the longer term, restructuring and refocusing existing re-entry programs to better meet intended goals; examining the pre-sentence investigation process and considering expanded use of Day Reporting and the Service Work Alternative Program as sentencing alternatives; potential expansion of the transitional housing initiative; and implementing Law Enforcement Alternative Diversion (LEAD).
  • Considering facilities changes to provide expanded inmate services (such as medical/nursing, on-site treatment, counseling, and links to post-jail services), relocating Sheriff’s Office functions to free up space for expanded inmate services; and beginning to plan for potential longer-term facilities solutions to accommodate such needs.
  • Criminal justice system initiatives such as presumption of non-financial release and encouraging more frequent use of ATIs by judges, orienting judicial officials concerning the array and value of ATIs available.
  • Inviting community member input regarding the report’s conclusions and recommendations, and actions that should be taken in response.
  • That the community continue to address systemic issues such as racism, affordable housing, transportation, employment, and poverty which, while beyond the scope of the study, impact directly on the jail population and overall quality of life.

 “The Report provides the Legislature with some encouraging news to bring to the New York State Commission of Correction,” said Legislator Rich John, Chair of the Legislature’s special Jail Study Committee.  “I am hopeful we can satisfy the State, so that we may continue our variance.  Certainly, this process has forced us to take a deep look at our criminal justice system within which our jail works. The Report also suggests that we have some flexibility in how we respond.   Overall, I believe we have some opportunity for significant improvement from where we began last year. “

CGR representatives will formally present the report to the Jail Study Committee on July 20th.  The meeting will take place at 5:00 p.m. at County Legislature Chambers, located at the Governor Daniel D. Tompkins Building (second floor), 121 E. Court Street, Ithaca.  At the meeting, public comment on the report will be invited.