Erie County Legislature Resolutions on County Jails

6 Mar

At the regular Erie County Legislature session on Thursday, a Resolution was passed that urges the County Executive and the Sheriff to advise the Legislature on procedures at Erie County Correctional Facility and Holding Center.

The legislation, introduced by Majority Leader Maria Whyte (D-Buffalo, 6th District) was directed at the County Executive and his Administration as well as the Sheriff’s Department and sought answers on policies and procedures at both facilities. In particular it asked County Attorney Cheryl Green to produce documentation outlining the policy with regards to screening inmates for suicide prevention and what, if any, action can be taken in regards to removing prisoner’s shoelaces.

The Resolution also called on the Administration and the Sheriff to grant immediate access to the Holding Center and Correctional Facility for a Suicide Prevention Specialist.

“This issue is fundamentally important to why we exist as a Legislative body,” stated Majority Leader Maria Whyte (D-Buffalo, 6th District) “contained in this Resolution we are formally asking for documents the County Attorney has already agreed to provide but that we have not yet seen. It also calls for immediate access by the suicide prevention specialist and the gravity of the situation requires us to act immediately on these issues. I want the voters of Erie County to know that we, as a Legislative Body, are monitoring this issue and working to provide answers.”

“We are all deeply disturbed by the news from the Holding Center. We are working hard to see what actionable items we, as the County Legislature, can take to try to avoid these problems in the future,” said Erie County Legislature Chair Barbara Miller-Williams (D-Buffalo, 3rd District). “today was a step, but ultimately it is the responsibility of the Administration and the Sheriff to implement policies that will improve conditions, we call upon them to do that immediately and to report those actions to the Legislature.”

A RESOLUTION TO BE SUBMITTED BY LEGISLATORS WHYTE, GRANT, MARINELLI, LOUGHRAN, MILLER-WILLIAMS & MAZUR

RE: Erie County Holding Center Correctional Facility Citizen’s Advisory Commission

WHEREAS, allegations abound about the lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper and tooth brushes, as well as medically necessary prescription drugs at the Erie County Holding Center and Correctional Facility; and

WHEREAS, more serious allegations about prisoner abuse and rape have also surfaced including during testimony offered at a Public Safety Committee Meeting in 2009; and

WHEREAS, three suicides along with two attempted suicides have occurred in the last four months at the Holding Center; and

WHEREAS, it has been reported that the Erie County Holding Center has a suicide rate of nearly five times the national average; and

WHREAS, the public outcry over conditions at the Holding Center and Correctional Facility have resulted in a call for a Erie County Jail Citizen’s Advisory Commission.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT

RESOLVED, that the Erie County Legislature invite individuals, civic organizations, and all other interested parties into the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee to discuss the establishment, composition, responsibility, and duties of an Erie County Jail Citizen’s Advisory Commission; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Erie County Legislature study how such Commissions have been used effectively in other areas of the country; and be it further

RESOLVED, that certified copies of this resolution be sent to the County Executive, the County Attorney, the Comptroller, the Sheriff, and the acting Jail Superintendent.

Also filed on March 4th, 2010:

AMENDMENT TO INTRO 4-10 (2010)

RESOLVED, that the County Attorney immediately file with the Clerk of the Legislature the following documents: the section of New York State law pertaining to footwear for incarcerated individuals; the written review conducted by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care in which Erie County was recognized for following the “best practice” model for 12 out of 13 suicide prevention strategies; all written materials (including but not limited to training manuals, checklists, questionnaires, etc.) related to the internal policies and procedures used by Erie County personnel in the identification of potentially suicidal inmates; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Erie County Legislature call upon the County Executive, County Attorney, Sheriff, and First Deputy Superintendent of the Jail Management Division to revisit all suicide prevention strategies currently in place at the Holding Center and the Correctional Facility and provide a written report to the Legislature within fourteen days regarding how and why such protocol may not have been successful at identifying the suicidal nature of certain inmates; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Erie County Legislature call upon the County Executive, County Attorney, and Sheriff to immediately grant access to the Holding Center and the Correctional Facility to a Suicide Prevention Specialist who can advise Erie County on any additional protocol jail personnel might employ in identifying suicidal inmates; and be it further

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