Legislature Approves Corrections Specialist Advisory Board
Local law is the culmination of a year of work by Chairwoman April Baskin; new panel would provide oversight of the Sheriff’s Office and advice to the Legislature and Sheriff
(Erie County, NY) The Erie County Legislature today voted unanimously to establish the Erie County Corrections Specialist Advisory Board, which will provide advice to, and oversight over the Erie County Sheriff Office’s Jail Management Division, which administers the Erie County Holding Center and the Erie County Correctional Facility. This advisory board builds on the prior Community Corrections Advisory Board, but will have a different membership structure than the prior advisory board. Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April N. M. Baskin worked with members of her caucus, community leaders and corrections professionals on the law.
“Today, the Erie County Legislature spoke with one voice and affirmed that we value the lives of everyone in our community” said Erie County Chairwoman April N. M. Baskin. “We were compelled to introduce and support this law because it is clear that despite a federal lawsuit, federal monitoring, state regulators and critical reports, the addition of dozens of new positions, and millions of dollars in new annual spending allocated by the county executive and legislature, there are still serious problems in the Holding Center. And this is not just about the prisoners and detainees. Sheriff personnel are also affected and impacted and suffer. We cannot restore the lives that have been lost, but we can provide oversight and counsel on the manner in which our jails are managed moving forward.”
Erie County Legislator and Chair of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee Howard Johnson stated: “At public hearings and the Public Safety Committee, we heard from experts, civic leaders, activists, law enforcement, and attorneys, who all urged reform and the creation of this advisory board. I am proud that my colleagues approved this measure unanimously. For too long persons who may have experienced trauma or issues have felt marginalized and ignored. It is my hope that today’s vote reassures them that their voices have been heard and we are committed to working to improve our correctional facilities.”
The advisory board will consist of eleven voting members, who shall be recommended by the Legislature, County Executive, Sheriff, the County Commissioners of Probation and Mental Health and the Erie County Bar Association. Other members will be recommended by organizations working on behalf of prisoners’ rights, and restorative justice. There will also be one member recommended by an organization that is dedicated to ex-offender transition from jail/prison to life in the general public who is a former prisoner of a county or state holding or correctional facility. Members must be residents of Erie County and may not hold elected office.
The board will make formal advisory recommendations to the County Legislature and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office on the programs, funding and services for the correctional facilities in Erie County and may receive complaints regarding the Erie County Holding Center and the Erie County Correctional Facility and refer such complaints to the Public Safety Committee of the Legislature. In addition, the board may develop strategic plans and policies to be considered by the Legislature and the Sheriff’s Office that will improve the conditions, systems and practices at the Erie County Holding Center and Correctional Facility and help reduce recidivism in Erie County. The board may also allow public comment on the issues related to the Erie County Holding Center and Erie County Correctional Facility.
The law will now be submitted to Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz for his consideration. Once the measure is signed into law by the county executive and certified by the New York State Secretary of State, the Legislature expects to begin making appointments to, and the advisory board will commence operations.