ITHACA, NY – On Tuesday, the Tompkins County Legislature voted unanimously in favor of releasing $100,000 in funding for a Reentry Plan for inmates of the Tompkins County Jail.

The reentry program will focus on helping released inmates access the county’s services and ease their transition back into the community, in an effort to reduce the likelihood that person will commit another crime, lower the cost of incarceration and provide greater opportunities for former offenders to live productive lives.

According to a report from the Criminal Justice / Alternatives to Incarceration Advisory Board (CJATI), Tompkins County actually put a basic reentry program in place eight years ago, but limited funding and eligibility requirements led to only 143 inmates being served by the program. 92 of those inmates (64.3 percent) have not returned to the Tompkins County jail.

For context, 68 percent of prison inmates were rearrested for a new crime within three years of release, and about 77 percent were re-arrested within five years, according to a study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice. While prison and jail are different experiences, inmates in both often face similar issues such as drug abuse or mental illness.

The bulk of the funding for the new program — $65,000 — will go toward establishing a Reentry Coordinator that will oversee the program and coordinate with the various stakeholders, agencies and organizations involved with the program, such as Offender Aid and Restoriation (OAR) and Ultimate Reentry Opportunity (URO).

$25,000 will be allocated toward enhanced basic education services and life skills training offered through the County’s Day Reporting Program. The remaining $10,000 will go toward grant writing services aimed at augmenting local funding for reentry services.

Phases of the Reentry Plan

The Reentry Plan is divided into four phases. Here’s how they break out:

Phase 1 – Hire or contract a Reentry Coordinator. This person will be responsible for case management of inmates — identifying the needs and risk level of each inmate and coordinating with other services to ensure that the inmate is referred to the appropriate services. For example: mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, or job training.

Phase 2 – Evaluate the effectiveness of services and pinpoint inefficient or deficient areas. The Reentry Coordinator and CJATI will establish performance measures to help identify which services are particularly effective and which ones aren’t, and make changes as necessary.

Phase 3 – Collaborating with groups like OAR and URO to pursue grant opportunities to help improve current services or develop services that aren’t currently available.

Phase 4 – Examine the need for assistance for the coordinator over the first 12 to 18 months of the program and pursue funding for additional staffing if needed.

The full Reentry Plan is posted at the CJATI page of the County website at http://www.tompkinscountyny.gov/ctyadmin/CJATI.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.