Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Dr. Alexis Blavos, a SUNY Cortland assistant professor, talks about the need for public input on the Cortland County Jail proposal during Thursday’s County Legislature meeting at the County Office Building.
County sets Route 13 site for new jail
Property on Route 13 in South Cortland will be the site of Cortland County’s next jail, legislators decided Thursday, ending a three-month delay in replacing an overcrowded and difficult-to-staff facility in downtown Cortland.
The measure passed with 31,421 votes under the county’s weighted voting system, or 11-4 with two absences. It followed four comments from the public, three opposing the development of a jail in any form and one encouraging the county to act.
“Former Chief Justice (Jonathan) Lippman of New York already paved the way by critiquing the failed bail system that ‘bails in’ folks who can’t pay,” said Mecke Nagel, a philosophy professor at SUNY Cortland. “So many of Cortland’s remand prisoners (those jailed for failure to pay bail) get time served, clearly a failure of the system to adjust punishment according to the offense.”
However, the county is under a state order to do something about its 93-bed facility built in 1991. The county risks losing a variance that has allowed it to house 30 inmates since 2014 in recreation space turned into a dormitory. And it has an older variance that allows13 inmates in other space converted nearly 20 years ago. If it loses the newer variance, that would add about $2 million to the county’s cost of boarding inmates at other facilities, on top of the$1 million it expects to spend this year.
“We’ve been stuck for three months and not doing anything,” said Legislator John Troy (D-Cortland). “We’ve been jerking the sheriff around for months.”
“The one thing you cannot correct is where it is,” said Legislator Jim Denkenberger (R-Cuyler, Solon, Truxton). “We have not thoroughly investigated the other sites.”