ONTARIO COUNTY, N.Y. — A recent drop in the number of inmates at the Ontario County Jail is good news for county officials, who have been debating whether or not to undergo a costly jail expansion. Earlier this month, there were 200 male inmates at the jail, compared to roughly 280 in August 2013.
While the cause in the decline is difficult to gauge, reported the Daily Messenger, a study completed this summer by Taylor Samuels, an Ithaca College student and former county intern, shows a downward trend in inmate numbers over the last year.
The study also reported that approximately 53 percent of inmates at the Ontario County Jail have yet to be sentenced and are facing felony charges. The county is considering adding a probation officer to the 2015 budget in an attempt to move these inmates along in the legal process. The officer would help carry out pre-sentencing investigations required to establish a background for the inmate.
Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero said that the population rise was likely due to the fact that several inmates had recurring substance abuse issues, reported the Daily Messenger. Mental health was also a large part of the higher inmate population problem, and contributed to the jail spending more than $700,000 over budget in 2013.
An expansion to the jail, however, could cost an additional $8 million as well as about $650,000 in annual operations costs, according to Chief Corrections Officer Alice Haskins. As such, county officials are trying to avoid expansion and instead plan to study the population and develop rehabilitation programs for inmates. Several programs such as alcohol and drug counseling, anger management, veteran support, Bible studies and art therapy have already been made available at the jail.