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State Affirms Revocation of Tompkins County Jail Variance

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State Affirms Revocation of Tompkins County Jail Variance

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The New York State Commission of Correction has affirmed its denial of Tompkins County’s request to extend its long-standing 18-bed variance at the Tompkins County Jail. The decision, signed by COC Chairman Thomas Beilein, came following the Commission’s January 17th meeting.

The Commission initially had directed that the variance be terminated as of December 31, but then, in response to a formal letter of request from Sheriff Ken Lansing, agreed to hear the County’s request for extension at its January 17th meeting. Sheriff Lansing asked the Commission to consider extension of the variance to allow the County to facilitate implementation of its alternatives to incarceration programs and jail renovation plans in 2018.

Since receiving notice that the variance would be terminated as of December 31, the letter noted, “not only our department, but several other county departments have been dedicated to seeing change in Tompkins County at a much faster pace than it had been before. It is my belief that with more time and the ability to save the cost of boarding out, we will be able to see most, if not all, of the plans through in 2018.”

In his decision, Chairman Beilein stated two reasons for the denial—that many previously-authorized variance beds were left unused due to classification issues and that the jail’s recent population has been in the mid-60s, thus alleviating the need for use of the variance beds. “While the Commission can appreciate your request to reinstate the variance beds as ‘insurance’ while the county continues its programmatic efforts to reduce the jail population, approval of such cannot be justified,” Chairman Beilein stated. While eight beds had already been removed and the remaining ten not used since December 31, the Commission directs that all remaining variance beds be removed as of January 19.

Despite their negative decision on the extension, Sheriff Lansing told the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee today that Commissioners “really think we are doing a great job” in keeping inmate numbers down.