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Jail Study Committee Hears Consultant Update, More Public Concern, Services Report

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Jail Study Committee Hears Consultant Update, More Public Concern, Services Report

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Legislature’s special Jail Study Committee heard a procedural status update from the CGR Consulting Group, and reports on services provided at the Tompkins County Jail, as it today continued in its examination of factors contributing to capacity issues at the Jail.

Speaking with the committee via teleconference, CGR’s Don Pryor updated the committee on where his firm stands in its process of assessment of population factors affecting Jail capacity since the study began last December. He noted that the study, in part, has involved nine on-site visits and more than 60 meetings with stakeholders, as well as extensive data collection from jail and alternatives-to-incarceration programs, and other community-based initiatives. Data analysis must be completed and additional review conducted—of such elements as county population trends and experiences of other communities—before jail population projections and other potential options for consideration can be developed. Mr. Pryor expects that the Committee will receive a Draft Report by early June.

About 40 people attended the meeting, and among the ten people who addressed the committee following the CGR update were several who expressed dissatisfaction with the nature of the presentation, which they characterized as only numbers and process, and not substance. Several again addressed the issue of mental health and detoxification issues in the jail, maintaining that the focus instead should be on services in the community, to help keep people out of jail. Bill Rusen, Director of Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services (CARS) reported that, while a feasibility study has been completed for a 25-bed women’s treatment facility at his agency, it could be two years before the project is completed, with detoxification is only the first step in recovery. One woman, who interns at the Jail, said inmates do want services within the Jail, but that services outside the Jail are badly needed.

The committee heard reports from representatives of organizations which currently provide services at the Jail—the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, Alcoholics Anonymous programs for men and women at the Jail, and Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources (OAR)—describing the services they provide and how frequently those services are offered. Jail Captain Ray Bunce expressed deep appreciation for the services those organizations provide, noting that he is “passionate about getting mental health services into the Jail.” Legislator Anna Kelles said that she sees services in the Jail as only a starting point in a continuum of care reaching into the community.

At the Public Safety Committee meeting that preceded the Jail Study Committee meeting, County Administrator Joe Mareane briefed the committee on discussions toward establishing a local Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program, a harm reduction-based program to divert low-level drug offenders away from the criminal justice system and toward community-based services. As discussed, he said, the program would initially be focused on the Ithaca Police Department, and would involve outreach and case management functions, though specifics on how those functions would potentially be handled, or the program funded, have not yet been finalized.