Operation Hope: Why drug-addicted inmates are losing their HOPE after new Bail Reform law

State News

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — One local jail is helping inmates overcome drug addiction. However, they’re now facing a major obstacle in the wake of the Bail Reform law in New York.

It’s called Operation HOPE and it stands for Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effect. The Chemung County jail has been running this program since 2016. This program provides the opportunity and treatment an individual needs while battling addiction.

When individuals come in, officials ask each person about their drug usage, such a Heroin or any other Opioid. If they do use, the Chemung County Jail sets up a program to help with their addiction.

“They’re automatically referred to Trinity; it’s an abuse and alcohol substance program that we refer them to,” said Barbara Dando, Nurse Administrator at Chemung County Jail. “The councilors are here 3 times a week and they do an evaluation to help them find a rehabilitation program.”

Operation Hope is not only for inmates, but also used as an educational tool for the public.

“It’s a message that needs to get out into the community,” said Bill Schrom, Chemung County Sheriff. “It’s a big problem within our community and across the county. ”

The program has helped over 600 inmates with their battle against addiction but because of the new bail reform, many of those inmates are being let go free.

The Bail Reform law began on January 1, 2020. The state-wide law releases people accused of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies; they no longer have to pay cash bail or spend time in jail before being convicted.

With the new state law, the number of inmates enrolled in Operation hope has drastically dropped. Between December 2018- January 2019, 33 inmates were enrolled. From December of 2019- January 2020, only 11 inmates were enrolled.

“The bail reform has a significant impact on it,” said Schrom. “In that…nobody’s coming to jail, so our numbers are significantly lower than in the past.”

The state-wide law has local officials concerned about the number of people who are no longer receiving help.

“With these people not coming in anymore — they’re out on the streets, they don’t have anywhere to go- they’re homeless, so it affects them being out there and we can’t help them,” said Dando.

The Republican Minority in Albany, N.Y. has made it their mission this legislative session to repeal the law.

In the meantime, individuals who need ‘hope’ are falling by the wayside.

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