Tag Archives: Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard

Erie County Jails

6 Mar

In an interview with Matt Spina of The Buffalo News a few weeks back, Erie County Executive Chris Collins said, “I believe in recognizing the importance of promoting personal accountability and personal responsibility”

Evidently, this statement only applies to the poor, the unemployed and those who dare cast a shadow upon the path of his royal highness of Clarence as he enters the Rath Building each day.  It certainly does not seem to apply to his Sheriff, his County Attorney nor does it seem to apply to him.

We’re going on nearly two years of disturbing problems in our Erie County jails, specifically at the Erie County Holding Center.  With three suicides in four months, and past reports of prisoners being beaten, raped, denied basic medical care and medication, escapes, poor security, mismanagement, and the denial of basic hygienic products, the county prisons are a sordid embarrassment.

The Department of Justice has taken the remarkable step of suing Erie County for access to our mini-Guantanamo Bay in order to investigate these issues after being stonewalled by the County Executive, County Attorney and Sheriff during the past year.  Collins has attempted to turn this into a federalism issue, saying that the DOJ lacks jurisdiction in our local jails.  Erie County Attorney Cheryl Green claims that if the DOJ are allowed to enter the facilities they will begin a “fishing expedition” that will most likely result in Erie County being forced to provide medical care for inmates that far outweighs the benefits that the county employees themselves receive, which is a strawman.

Since December, five inmates have attempted suicide with three ultimately taking their own life.

The DOJ contends in their court filing that the “suicide rate at the Erie County Holding Center is almost five times the national average for local jails”.  Green contends the DOJ is using flawed methodology, a claim the DOJ dismisses.

If this County Executive demanded the same level of personal accountability of his staff as he does the working poor of Erie County, he would demand a wide ranging investigation into the problems in our jails, demand the resignation of  Green and force Sheriff Tim Howard to open his doors to experts and investigators.

Instead, we get dismissive references to coddling criminals and inferences that the Department of Justice has some sort of hidden agenda and is a creeping entity of a monolithic federal government.

“I would have to ask the general public, who do you trust more, the federal government, the state government or your local government?” Tim Howard said. “And I think most people I talk to say they have most trust in their local government.”

What has this Sheriff done to earn the trust of the local populace?  Did he earn our trust by ignoring recommendations to secure his facilities which led to Ralph “Bucky” Phillips’ escape from an Erie County jail? After his escape, Phillips shot three state troopers, ultimately killing State Trooper Joseph Longobardo. The Phillips manhunt also cost the state millions of dollars.  In a state investigation following Phillips’ escape, it was found that the Sheriff “willfully operated the Alden Correctional Facility in an unsafe manner”.

Did Sheriff Howard earn our trust when a clerk in the Sheriff’s office mistakenly released rapist Rasheed Milton only to have him rape again while he was on the loose?

Did he earn our trust in 2007 when Robert Henchen died of pneumonia caused by starvation and dehydration while in Erie County custody?

This is a matter of public safety and of our community integrity.  Will we let these abuses continue or will we have the courage to demand action?

People are dying on your watch, Mr. Collins.  It’s time to stand up and be accountable. Or is accountability just for the less fortunate?

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

Friday YouTube: Egregious Failure Edition

5 Mar

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Three Months, Three Suicides

4 Mar

How many more must die in the county lockup before people start investigating, holding people accountable, and behaving in a way that at least borders on competence?

People are dying needlessly. They are in county custody – this is preventable, if they want it to be.

A Note to A.J. Baynes

24 Oct

The anti-Howard videos that appear on WNYMedia.net were created by WNYMedia.net on our own dime, on our own time. At no time did anyone from the Glascott campaign have anything to do with them, or pay for them.

Pointing out Sheriff Howard’s patent failure is fun, easy, and effective – we don’t have to be paid to do it.

But thanks for the opportunity to re-post these:

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From the Buffalo News:

The sheriff’s department came under fire when a volunteer search party discovered the body of the Clarence mother of four the day after the department scaled back its own round-the-clock search.

“He could have called in other law enforcement agencies,” Glascott said of Howard. “You never should stop a search and let friends and family find the body.”

At the time, Howard’s right-hand man took responsibility for scaling back the search and acknowledged the bike path area where Diver was found had been searched at least twice.

“We may have missed it,” Undersheriff Richard T. Donovan told a packed news conference three years ago.

Howard, who often points to Sanchez’s arrest as one of his proudest achievements, took issue with Glascott’s criticism of his department’s handling of the search.

“The investigation never ceased,” Howard said. “It was never stopped.”

The sheriff’s role in the Bike Path case has emerged as a campaign issue in part because of radio and Internet political ads praising and criticizing him.

A new Internet video by Marc J. Odien, founder and editor of WNYMedia.net, an online source for local news and information, lambastes Howard for his handling of the Diver search.

The ad, now widely available on YouTube and other online services, claims Howard called off the search, “less than 24 hours after Joan Diver went missing.”

Odien, who was paid to build Glascott’s campaign Web site, said the candidate had no role in the video.

“This is all mine,” he said. “I just think the whole Diver thing was mishandled.”

A.J. Baynes, Howard’s campaign manager, called the ad a “blatant, desperate attempt by a losing campaign to garner votes.”

Boy Scouts > Tim Howard

21 Oct

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Tim Howard's Radio Ad

21 Oct

Yesterday, our current Sheriff aired a radio ad that touted the fact that he captured the Bike Path Rapist, Altemio Sanchez.

That’s nice. Except it wasn’t just the Sheriff’s Department, it was a regional task force that brought Sanchez down. Officers from the Amherst Police Department, Buffalo Police, Erie County Sheriff’s Department and N.Y. State Police participated in the task force.

Although Sheriff’s Detectives did amazing work in cracking the case, on the day that Joan Diver went missing – September 29, 2007 – he told the Sheriffs where she likely would have gone running, judging by where her car was parked. Sanchez had moved Diver’s SUV as the search for her commenced. The Sheriffs immediately treated Diver’s husband as a suspect and commenced a search which ignored his recommendation; a recommendation the deputies considered suspicious because of its detail. Scientists are known for detail.

The Sheriff’s office called off the search for Joan Diver on September 30th. The next day – October 1st, Tim Howard was taking in a Bills game while community volunteers continued searching for Joan Diver. She was found that day by a boy scout troop.

That’s not something to be proud of. Not even a little. I’m amazed that Howard is using it in an ad for his re-election.

What's Another Mistaken Release?

29 Sep

Sheriff Tim Howard does it again!  Wow! What competence!

Howard and the Jails

23 Sep

When the Federal Government tells you that the county jails are not kept up to constitutional standards, and the state Department of Corrections sues you to ensure that the jails are kept up to constitutional standards, then there may be a problem with you keeping the jails up to constitutional standards.

But Keanu Reeves got to visit the jails that federal investigators couldn’t. So, there’s that.

At least one commenter argues that, well, Howard’s opponent is a “Barney Fife” who operates a small-town gaol with only a handful of town drunks, miscreants, and misfits, and that he hasn’t amassed the number or quality of endorsements as Howard.

But that’s not the issue, and Cheektowaga isn’t Mayberry. It’s a town of 90,000 that hosts the area’s busiest airport, busiest mall, and has inner-ring suburb problems.

The issue is Tim Howard’s performance; his management of the county jails, and the best defense he can muster is that prisoners aren’t entitled to the same treatment they’d get in a hotel. That’s very true, and very beside the point. Howard has been Sheriff for 4 years. The endorsements he’s obtained are political – not based on merit. At least two inmates were “mistakenly” released on his watch, one of whom raped someone. A third inmate of his escaped using a kitchen implement and went on to murder one state trooper, and wound two more.

There’s a dangerous mix of arrogance and poor management with our current Sheriff. The Feds told him to make changes. He ignored them. The state is now doing the same. He’s refusing.

John Glascott’s site is here.

DOJ: No way. Keanu? Ok.

16 Sep

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