ITHACA, N.Y,. — Tompkins County has received another six-month extension on a variance allowing extra beds at the Tompkins County Jail.

The variance was extended again at a meeting Dec. 20 with officials from the New York State Commission of Correction, Capt. Ray Bunce of the Tompkins County Jail said. Bunce said the commission was made aware of the county’s serious efforts to study and reduce the jail population.

“They have been made aware that the county has hired a consultant to study the jail population, to study the needs as the county as far as it goes. They are happy with that,” Bunce said.

In July, the commission announced it was revoking a variance that allowed the jail to have double-bunking in cells and operate with 18 extra beds. The facility was designed to hold 82 beds. The commission has said an overcrowded jail presents risks to inmate safety and well-being.

The county was initially told the jail would have to eliminate double-bunking by Sept. 1, however the county was able convince the commission to extend the variance by ensuring it was working to address overcrowding at the jail.

If the variance is revoked and the county is forced to “board out” more inmates to other facilities, the cost will be a massive burden for the county.

Tompkins County has been investing in re-entry services as well as studies to analyze the jail population. In June, the county approved $100,000 for a re-entry program that will help ease inmates’ transitions back into the community and help reduce recidivism. The county has also put $85,000 aside for two studies — one which will examine current and projected jail population incorporating Alternatives to Incarceration programs and another which develop concepts to accommodate the projected population.

The jail’s variance has been extended twice now, and the county will have to apply for an extension again in mid-May, Bunce said.

Though the variance does allow for more inmates, the jail population since late summer has dropped, Bunce said. He estimated that headcount has remained “in the 60s.”

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.