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Legislature Authorizes Jail Study. Jail Study Committee Formed.

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Legislature Authorizes Jail Study. Jail Study Committee Formed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Legislature authorized and appropriated funding to support study of the inmate population and population trends at the Tompkins County Jail and of potential design options to accommodate the Jail’s population. The action follows notice from the New York State Commission of Correction (COC) that the jail’s 18-bed variance beyond its 82-bed capacity, which has been in effect since 2009, will be revoked as of September 1st. The Commission has advised the County that it seeks immediate progress in reducing the jail population to a level that can be housed in an 82-bed facility, or to increase jail size to accommodate the incarcerated population.

By unanimous vote, the Legislature authorized and directed the County Administrator to procure consultant services for two studies—to analyze the current and projected population of the Jail, incorporating current and pending activities intended to reduce the jail population; and to develop cost-effective design concepts that would accommodate the projected population. The Legislature allocated $85,000 from the Contingent Fund to underwrite the studies.

Along with its commitment to undertake the studies, the Legislature also calls upon the Commission to restore the 18-bed variance for the period of time necessary to procure criminal justice and architectural consultants to undertake the studies, and for the consultants to complete their work. Representatives of the County will discuss the County’s plans and commitment to the analyses when they meet with the Commission of Correction August 30th. Estimated annual cost to board-out 18 additional inmates to out-of-county jails is $558,000.

Jail Study Committee:
Legislature Chair Michael Lane also appointed a five-member Jail Study Committee, chaired by Legislator Rich John, charged with reviewing and recommending to the full Legislature how the County should address overcrowding at the Jail and bring the facility into compliance with COC regulations. Also assigned to the Jail Study Committee are Legislators Martha Robertson, David McKenna, Anna Kelles, and Jim Dennis, with other key County and agency staff also expected to participate. An interim report from the committee would be expected in three months, with a final report in six months.

Tasks cited in the committee’s charge include educating itself regarding current condition of the jail and policies, and how to meet COC regulations; reviewing the prior jail study report; supervising and reviewing the reports of the two new studies; investigating costs and recommending alternative methods to meet overcrowding at the jail, including both programming and building; and the financial implications of those alternatives for county taxpayers.

Concluding his charge, Chair Lane stated, “County Legislators are well aware that jail issues are sensitive in our community. Members of the Legislature may have preconceived views on how to address jail issues, but I am asking that all members of the special committee put any of that aside and enter into this study with open minds so as to be able to gather and send on to their colleagues the best possible information and recommendations.”

Chair Lane’s full charge regarding the Jail Study Committee is posted at www.tompkinscountyny.gov/legislature.