Residents Raise Objections to Tompkins County Jail Expansion
The Tompkins County legislature held a public information meeting yesterday in connection with a plan to spend nearly a million dollars to add seven beds and a new recreation area to the County jail. Over two dozen residents opposed to the expansion attended the session.
40 people attended the meeting of the Tompkins Legislature’s Public Safety Committee. The session was called to present information and respond to questions on the County’s plan to renovate the County Jail.
Opponents of the jail project say the expansion is further taxpayer investment into a broken, racist justice system. They say the County should be investing in alternatives to incarceration instead building more cages.
Lawmakers are considering spending $900,000 at the jail to replace a little-used indoor recreation space with a sheltered outdoor facility and add seven beds to reduce inmate board-out costs. The move is expected to save the county nearly $140 thousand dollars annually.
Tompkins County Administrator Joe Mareane says the County is investing in other initiatives to help keep the jail population down. Mareane pointed to the county’s day reporting program for people on probation, high spending levels on public defense, mental health, and youth programs. He also used county contributions to a bail assistance programs and special courts for high risk offenders as other examples of where the County invests to keep people out of jail and help rehabilitate them.
Supporters of the project say the current conditions in the jail are unsafe and inhumane; many of those inmates boarded out are youth and women who are cut off from family while they are sent to jails out of the area.
County Legislative Chair Martha Robertson encouraged those concerned about incarceration practices to also extend their efforts to the town and village courts, to Albany, and to other counties. She promised attendees that the legislature would pursue their concerns.