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Alternatives-to-Incarceration Cost Analysis Presented

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Alternatives-to-Incarceration Cost Analysis Presented

Friday, April 9, 2010
The Legislature's Public Safety Committee has received the second phase of a report evaluating the County's Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) programs, updating an evaluation performed in 2003. Deana Bodnar, program development specialist at the Department of Social Services, following up on a presentation to the committee in March, this week presented an analysis of costs and savings related to the county's ATI programs--'the Ithaca Community Treatment Court, Tompkins County Felony Treatment Court, and the Tompkins County Day Reporting program. The committee requested the updated evaluation last year.

The analysis compares the estimated savings ATI programs provide in terms of reduced jail days and the costs associated with each program. It also includes data estimating economic impact of increased employment, education, and reduced use of public assistance by ATI participants.

The study estimates the three ATI programs' net cost to the county at just under $250,000 (from 2004-September 2009 for the two drug courts and from June 2006-September 2009 for Day Reporting), coupled with estimated economic benefit of more than $4.8 million from increased employment, education, and reduced public assistance resulting from participants in these programs. It also cites other positive outcomes for participants resulting from reduced substance abuse, outcomes that cannot be measured in dollar values. "Taking into account these benefits as well as the large additional economic benefits of ATI programs," the study states, "the county's investment in these programs yields high gains to the community in both economic and social returns." The evaluation also finds that costs of the Ithaca Community Treatment Court "decreased substantially" during the past three years, with a new judge overseeing the court and involvement of the current district attorney.

Committee chair Nathan Shinagawa voiced high praise of the study and thanked Bodnar for her analysis. Legislature Chair Martha Robertson, who chaired the Public Safety Committee when the evaluation was requested, remarked that effects of the county's ATI programs "have changed the long-term projection" regarding the local jail population, projected at 130 beds 12 years ago, with the current population typically less than 90.

When the cost analysis was discussed at this week's Legislature meeting, Legislator Frank Proto raised questions regarding whether all issues raised in the past have been explored, and requested the report be circulated to all legislators. Bodnar has stated her report does not contain specific measures of recidivism, since that data is not yet forthcoming from the State. The Probation Department, it was noted, is seeking to obtain that information.