ITHACA, N.Y. — Community members interested in learning more or giving input on jail capacity issues at the Tompkins County Jail can attend a public information session at the Jail Study Committee’s meeting this week.

The Jail Study Committee, a special committee of Tompkins County Legislature, has been examining capacity issues at the Tompkins County Jail. On Thursday, the committee will host a public discussion on the issue.

This summer, the New York State Commission of Correction revoked a variance for the county jail that allowed 18 extra beds. Though the variance has been reinstated — most recently in December — the county must find ways to reduce the jail population or expand the jail.

“Ultimately, how we respond to this jail variance issue will have long-term economic and social consequences,” Rich John, chair of the Jail Study Committee said in a news release. “The need to react to the Commission of Correction can be seen as an unfortunate and potentially expensive problem. But we can also see this as an opportunity to examine how we can make this piece of our criminal justice system work more efficiently, effectively, and fairly for all involved. If you have opinions and ideas, we encourage you to come and share them with us.”

Related: Tompkins jail gets more time (again) to manage jail population

In August, legislators approved spending $85,000 to study jail capacity in two parts. The first part will examine the present and projected demographics of the jail population, and assess the impacts of Alternatives to Incarceration programs. The second part will analyze how to accommodate that population.

According to the Jail Study Committee website, the committee is trying to reduce the average daily census in the jail; eliminate boarded-out placements to other jails; assess alternatives to incarceration and other services with the potential to reduce jail population; and avoid the need for expanding the jail if possible or building a new jail. However, if a new or expanded jail is recommended, the committee says, its goal will also be to develop cost-effective recommendations that limit the size and costs of any new or expanded facility.

The Jail Study Committee meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at Legislature Chambers, located in the Governor Daniel D. Tompkins Building, 121 E. Court Street (Second Floor), Ithaca. The entire meeting is public, but the public information portion will begin at 5:30 p.m., according to a news release.

At the meeting, consultants from the Center for Governmental Research will describe what steps they are taking to work through their criminal justice and jail population trend analysis, a news release said. After the presentation, members of the public can speak and ask questions.

The research group began work in December and the study is expected to be complete this spring.

To learn about the study and keep updated as the examination moves forward, visit the project website at www.cgr.org/TompkinsCrimJust. There, people can also sign up to receive email alerts as new information is released.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.