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Jail Study Committee Looks Toward Next Steps

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Jail Study Committee Looks Toward Next Steps

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Legislature’s special Jail Study Committee today considered the focus of its future work, now that the County has received results from the jail population study conducted on behalf of the County by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR).  The CGR report found that Tompkins does not need to build a new jail or expand the number of beds in the existing jail, due both to County population projections over the next 25 years and savings in bed days that can result from effective use and expansion of incarceration alternatives. 

The committee today discussed and reached informal consensus on a draft task list, prepared by Chair Rich John, guiding how its work should proceed.  Among immediate steps identified in response to the CGR report:  conveying to the State Commission of Correction the Legislature’s resolution accepting the report as a guideline for future County action, to support extension of the Jail’s 18-bed variance.  The current extension expires October 1, and the Commission will consider the matter September 26.

Another high-priority response is to assess budget impact related to the report recommendations—including a range of over-target requests now being considered as part of the County’s 2018 budget process, affecting multiple departments and programs.  One of those requests, implementation of a Criminal Justice Coordinator position, is proposed as an 18-month position, though discussion today explored whether an approach of one-time funding for three years might be better, in part due to the volume and nature of work involved.

Among other committee tasks discussed:  supporting development of the Alcohol and Drug Council voluntary detox facility; capitalizing on lessons learned from the Cooperative Extension and URO reentry initiatives to build a viable reentry program in collaboration with Probation and Mental Health; facilitating immediate transfer from Jail to treatment; and analyzing impact of the new Endeavor House transitional housing program to determine if the concept eventually should be expanded.  Mr. John also suggested a potential addition to the County’s Capital Program to improve non-jail bed facilities and systems.  County Administrator Joe Mareane reminded the committee that LaBella Architects is currently on retainer for potential concept design work, with $22,000 remaining in the budget which could support such work.  The committee agreed to invite LaBella to its October meeting.

Asked by Chair John whether the Jail Study Committee should continue to exist, members agreed that   it should, at least for now, until the matter of the Jail advances a bit further, though eventually the Committee’s work could be merged with that of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee.