Tim Howard became Erie County Sheriff in 2005 and he’s up for re-election this year.
Set aside for a moment the fact that vicious cop-killer Ralph “Bucky” Phillips escaped from an Erie County correctional facility using a can opener, and forget the few-too-many mistaken releases of inmates who had no business being released – one of whom committed a rape.
The problem even worse than these is that Howard and his folks don’t think there’s any problem. The United States Justice Department – with whom Howard’s department refused to cooperate – is appalled by the conditions it observed and learned of in Erie County’s jail facilities. As the Buffalo News points out, the county rebuts, but doesn’t corroborate.
“We conclude that the conditions of confinement violate the constitutional rights of inmates,” the Justice Department said in a letter to County Executive Chris Collins, who months ago shut off all county cooperation with the probe begun in November 2007, before he took office.
Not only did Erie County refuse to cooperate — on the county attorney’s advice — the county attorney sought out some inmates whom the federal authorities had interviewed in other facilities and asked them to reveal their testimony, the Justice Department revealed.
“Much of what is in the report is based on fiction and not reality,” said County Attorney Cheryl A. Green, who said she conducted those follow-up interviews to assess whether the inmates had been coached and to determine whether their testimony would be accurately presented.
“Much“? What, exactly, is reality and what, exactly is fiction? Any reality would constitute a Constitutional violation. Just because the jails house bad people doesn’t mean you can just do whatever the hell you want to them, or subject them to beatings and other cruelty because you can.
And yes, the county’s cavalier “screw you” attitude to the Justice Department report is almost as appalling as the underlying allegations of abuse.
It wouldn’t be such an insult if it was the first time we were told how bad they were. From the 2006 Phillips escape report:
The Commission investigation into the escape of Ralph Phillips from the Erie County Correctional Facility revealed serious managerial and executive level operational policy and procedure breakdowns of proportions which rise to the level of willful negligence and professional incompetence.
Use that in a negative ad with ominous music.
Cheektowaga Police Captain John Glascott is running against Howard for Erie County Sheriff. Here’s what he told WNYMedia’s Marc Odien last week:
The Republicans are so afraid of him that they tried to get him to either drop out of the race or quit his job, alleging that he couldn’t do both at the same time. That didn’t work, so now Tim Howard is stuck defending the demerits of his tenure.