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Jail Alternatives Task Force Begins Work

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Jail Alternatives Task Force Begins Work

Friday, March 14, 2014

A new County task force convened for the first time today, commencing an in-depth review of additional measures that could be employed to reduce the population of the Tompkins County Jail.

The Jail Alternatives Task Force, formed by the County’s Criminal Justice/Alternatives to Incarceration Board (CJATI) as requested by the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee, “will consider and may recommend County initiatives, in addition to the array of programs already in place, that may safely and prudently reduce the population of the Tompkins County Jail.”

Under its charge, the Task Force will “engage the public, criminal justice professionals, County department and agency heads, and other knowledgeable individuals to solicit ideas for further reducing the number of individuals incarcerated at the County jail.  Based on the ideas presented, the task force will undertake a review of the options that it finds to offer the greatest possibility of safely and prudently reducing the jail population.”

The 12-member Task Force is made up of eight members of CJATI and four county residents who are not County employees or criminal justice professionals.  Chairing the Task Force are Suzi Cook, Chair of CJATI, and Deb Dietrich, Director of the organization Opportunities, Alternatives and Resources (OAR). 

Other members of the Task Force are Davi Mozie, project director, Human Services Coalition; Paula Ioanide, assistant professor, Ithaca College; Susan Begg, retired veterinarian and volunteer at Prisoners Legal Services; Eric Lerner, former OAR director and former County legislator; Pat Buechel, Director, Tompkins County Probation Department; Angela Sullivan, Director, Tompkins County Alcohol and Drug Council; Hon. John Rowley, Tompkins County Judge; Hon. Mark Dresser, Ulysses Town Magistrate; Jason Leifer, Defense Attorney; and Linda Riley, Tompkins County Mental Health.

Co-Chair Suzi Cook told members she would like to see a two-pronged effort—to examine existing programs and resources (even those community resources that have not traditionally been considered alternatives-to-incarceration) and how to make them work, and work together, better, and also to consider potential new initiatives that have achieved success elsewhere.  As a preliminary step, a summary of existing county alternatives-to-incarceration programs and community resources will be compiled, for review at the next Task Force meeting.  A public meeting will be held early on in the process—perhaps the first of more than one input session—to solicit suggestions on what the group should look at and research as it moves forward in its process.

Audio files from the Task Force meetings will be uploaded to the Tompkins County Meeting Portal at will be available for review during the duration of the Task Force's work. 

The Task Force study could take as long as six months.