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Tompkins County Sheriff Ken Lansing has submitted a request to the State Commission of Correction seeking a one-year continuation of a variance allowing the County to operate its jail with 18 beds more than its 82-bed permitted capacity. The request included a commitment to implement recommendations made in a 6-month study by the Rochester-based Center for Governmental Research (CGR) that recommended ways to reduce the County's jail population through alternatives to incarceration, detox and drug/alcohol rehabilitation facilities, and other improvements in the criminal justice system.

Last year, the Commission of Correction had threatened to revoke the jail variance unless the County demonstrated a good faith effort to address jail overcrowding.

"We are optimistic the State will recognize the tremendous amount of work that has been done by CGR, the Legislature, and the community to identify ways to reduce our Jail population," said Lansing. "I'm hopeful the Commission will continue to give us time needed to implement the recommendations that came out of this process and for those actions to begin producing results."

County Legislator Rich John, chair of the Legislature' s Jail Study Committee, added: "We are grateful to CGR for analyzing the hard numbers that we asked them to consider, while also listening to the many stakeholders in our community. I hope the Commission will understand their report as the solid, well-documented study that it is. I look forward to implementing many of the study's recommendations for reducing our jail population and creating a safer, more supportive community for all our residents."

The CGR report included over 25 recommendations ranging from the expanded use of electronic monitoring to the creation of a medical detox facility. Several of the recommendations related to County programs and are currently being reviewed for consideration in the 2018 County Budget. Other items, such as the call for additional detox and rehab beds, are dependent on State funding and approval processes that can take several years.

In a letter to the Commission accompanying the variance request, Legislature Chair Michael Lane assured the State that "the County's draft 2018 budget to be presented to the County Legislature in September will include a very substantial increase in earmarked funding to get off to a fast, strong start in implementing CGR's recommendations."

The Tompkins County Jail has operated with an 18-bed variance since 2009. Its most recent variance was for the 90-day period ending on September 30, 2017.

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