November 30, 2021

Legislators to discuss whether to accept jail study

Cortland Standard file photo

A man enters the Cortland County Jail in this May 2016 file photo.

Cortland County legislators will discuss Tuesday during a Judiciary and Public Safety Committee meeting whether to accept a jail bed assessment three weeks after it was originally due.

Rod Miller, the president of CRS Inc. of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was hired in September for up to $8,700 to conduct a study to determine how many beds the jail may need in coming years. That assessment would help legislators decide whether the county would need to build a new jail, which could cost more than $50 million.

Meeting set

When: 9 a.m. Tuesday
Where: Room 304, County Office Building, 60 Central Ave., Cortland

The last assessment was done in 2007 and recommended the county should plan for 140 beds by 2025 and about 230 by 2035. However, time has proven most of its prediction models inaccurate.

The existing jail was built in 1992 with a planned capacity of 50 inmates. It has been crowded since 1997, but now can hold up to 89 with permission from the state.

The debate on whether to accept the study comes after Miller asked to hand in his report two days after his June 30 deadline.

Legislature Chairman Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville) told Miller not to file it following concerns from other legislators about the legal ramifications.

“We contracted him last fall and gave him ample time to submit (his report),” said Legislator Kelly Preston (R-Homer). “For him to suggest ‘I need one more day’ — were we really go to get that report in one more day? If he hasn’t done the work, just say it.”

Miller declined to comment last week.

Committee Chairman Michael Barylski (D-Cortlandville) said Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit research and policy group which looked at ways to reduce the jail population through diversion and other programs, was granted an extension, so the same should happen with Miller.

“I think there’s precedent here,” he said. “I do believe there’s time to accept it.”

Miller, who was hired for up to $8,700, has not been paid, according to Barylski.

Miller’s study would provide:
• A detailed description of the inmate population.
• Current and recent criminal justice system reports and plans.
• Input from individual stakeholders.
• Suggestions for policies, programs and services that might reduce the need for jail beds.

Preston said she is open to discussion, but also believes the county should continue moving forward on various recommendations made in Vera’s reports.

One of those recommendations was creating a centralized arraignment court, which Josh Shapiro, special counsel to the administrative judge for town and village courts in the 6th Judicial District, is expected to touch on Tuesday.

He is expected to elaborate on the concept of centralized arraignment, where it is at in the planning phase and what the next steps should be.

“I’m anxious to hear Josh Shapiro’s suggestions, recommendations for centralized arraignment,” Preston said. “This is already happening in Broome County and they are under the 6th Judicial District. I’m sure he can bring us some suggestions on how we can take this movement forward.”

There are also resolutions on the table to hire a new probation director after Lisa Cutia recently retired and add two part-time assistant public defender positions.