Ithaca, N.Y. (WENY) - On January 1st, a variance allowing 18 extra beds at the Tompkins County Jail will come to an end.
To help deal with the loss of the beds and to reduce the jail population, Tompkins County legislators are funding additions to the Mental Health Department, as well as addiction recovery services.
The Tompkins County alcoholism and drug council is working with New York state to open a detox stabilization facility, while the Cayuga addiction and Recovery Services is working with the state to add 25 beds to their treatment center.
Legislators hope that these programs can serve as alternatives to incarceration, and reduce the amount of people who return to jail. Tompkins County legislator Rich John says, "Almost everybody we have in our jail has some issue with alcohol, drugs or mental health. There are certainly some people that doesn't apply to, but the majority there is something leading to them getting involved in the criminal justice system. So if we can deal with those issues, we're hoping we can make a difference on the long term. We won't have people coming back to our jail over and over again."
In the short term, when the variance ends the county will board out prisoners to other jails if necessary.
John says the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program is another tool to help cut down the jail population and give police officers a choice. He says, "Instead of making the arrest, they can put them in this program where they are required to go sit with a counselor, find out what is going on, what led to the behavior if they can figure that out."