As Chair of the Erie County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee, it is my responsibility to work with county departments such as Probation, the Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Services to protect the general public from dangers and matters affecting their welfare and safety. This includes those who are confined in the Erie County Holding Center and Erie County Correctional Facility.
The Erie County Community Corrections Advisory Board, a subcommittee of the Legislature, was formed with the expressed purpose of making recommendations to the Legislature regarding improvements in the programming of the Jail Management Division and the County Correctional Facilities. One of the resolutions brought forth by this board was the creation of an Ombudsman. This person would serve as an impartial official with the authority and responsibility to receive complaints regarding the Correctional Facilities from concerned parties, and then refer such complaints to the proper officials at the Erie County Sheriff’s Office for investigation.
Recently, Thomas Diina was named Superintendent of the Division of Jail Management by Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard. He also was recently appointed to serve as a member of the Erie County Community Corrections Advisory Board. After several conversations with him, he expressed to me that in his new role he intends to improve the relationship between the Erie County Sheriff’s Department and the community at large.
Superintendent Diina has already raised the level of expectation of the Division of Jail Management by committing to a greater level of transparency, the implementation of additional programs aimed at inmate welfare, an efficient grievance process, and a recognition of the right to humane treatment to all those confied at county correctional facilities.
I am encouraged by the progress and hard work I have seen so far by Superintendent Diina. He has committed to an open line of communication and accessibility, and will take the time to work through the process of improving conditions at the correctional facilities.
I appreciate the hard work put in by the Corrections Advisory board in examining the Ombudsman position, but at this time I feel it is not required. If there is a need to discuss the matter of an Ombudsman in the future, we will do so. Working with the Public Safety Committee and the Erie County Community Corrections Advisory Board, I trust Superintendent Diina and his team will work to fulfill the promise of the mission statement of the Division of Jail Management.