Petition asks Cortland County to put proposed jail to referendum vote

CORTLAND, N.Y. — A group of local residents is asking Cortland County to let the public decide whether or not the county should spend $38 million on a new jail.

The petition, which was launched Wednesday, has garnered 27 signatures, with the goal of reaching 100 supporters.

"We, the undersigned, urge Cortland County to engage in the thorough pursuit of alternatives to incarceration (ATI) and other cost-saving measures," the petition reads. "Given that most of the people sitting in jail are awaiting trial for drug misdemeanors, we ask for a discussion of public health strategies and best practices."

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The Cortland County Legislature is scheduled to vote tonight on a measure to authorize $1.9 million in spending for phase 2 of the project, which includes engineering and design work.

The petition will be sent to Eric Mulvihill, clerk of the Cortland County Legislature, and the county's 17 legislators.

Opponents of the proposal have cited the exorbitant cost of constructing a new facility. Some have accused officials of ignoring other, more cost-effective options, such as alternatives to incarceration and pre-trial services programs. County and law enforcement officials have said that the current jail is overcrowded, forcing them to board out inmates to other counties, a costly process.

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