ECCC Advisory Board
Meeting #4 April 12, 2011
Meeting was called to order by Chair Dr. Cummings at 1:09 pm
Pledge of Allegiance
Chair Michael Cummings
Michael Lex (joined meeting at 1:30)
Karima Amin (joined meeting at 1:20)
Motion to approve minutes of Meeting Number 2 – Motion made by Cheryl Green Seconded by Rev. Pierce – unanimously approved
Chair spoke of the letters of interest received by the Clerk for the Legislature to consider regarding appointments to the ECCCAB. Chair noted that individuals have until 4/15 to send in letters of interest to the Clerk
Item #6 – Chair noted we had a discussion regarding open meetings law at last meeting. Now that there is a web page within Legislature website it would allow people to link to the page and create more exposure regarding meeting notices, etc... Chair asked if there were other ideas we want to put forth for a vote?
Ms. Haynes asked about the media outlets that Notice was sent to. Wondering if we can post notices at the County Library. Ms. Green noted that we would need approval from Public Works for that. Ms. Haynes talked about community boards. Ms. Haynes asked committee if we could ask permission to post notices. Asked that there be a Board motion and she will represent the Board to ask if notices could be posted. Ms. Constantino asked if that would be all Boards? Ms. Haynes noted that it is the Secretary’s duty to notify people.
Karima Amin joined meeting at 1:16
Ms. Haynes made a motion that we ask the Dept of Public Works if we can post at all of the EC Libraries a notice of these meetings.
AMENDED at Meeting 6 to ADD: “library bulletin boards are available for posting of public notices of public interest”
Rev. Pierce pointed out that the Public Officers Law was given out at the last meeting – felt that needed to be reviewed and followed.
Ms. Constantino asked for clarification – since this is a public meeting can we not, as Board members, post the notice of meetings when and where we would like without the Board’s permission? She stated she was not sure we need to identify specific locations here at this meeting.
Chair clarified that this was a specific requirement to ask permission of DPW for posting.
Anne Constantino seconded the motion put forth earlier by Ms. Haynes about asking DWP for permission to post notices at the EC Libraries, motion carried unanimously
Chair asked if we should further discuss this issue or if this meets requirements of open meetings law.
Shawn Martin counseled that current notice procedures fulfill public officers and open meetings law. Cheryl Green also spoke about the fact that in her opinion we currently fulfill those requirements.
Ms. Constantino pointed out that she does not want the board to get caught up in minutiae of these arguments but to proceed on with more important issues.
Ms. Haynes said she believes that getting the word out of the meetings is part of our duty as a board. She believes that including it in the bylaws will assure that notice is given in a number of locations.
Ms. Constantino said that as part of the duties of a board member is to disseminate information about the meetings.
Chair asked the bylaws committee to consider this issue further with regards to legal ramifications along with other questions/changes to bylaws.
Chair spoke of Article II, Section 1 clarification. Discussion tabled at the last meeting waiting for more members to be present. Asked members if they have any questions or want to discuss further. (this is the issue regarding complaints received by the committee regarding the correctional facilities)
Michael Lex joined meeting at 1:30
Cheryl Green spoke of the fact that the Legislature took significant time studying this issue in creating the Board. We are a pass through for these complaints. Our real goal is to give recommendations to the Legislature regarding the Correctional Facilities. She believes this seems to be our main role.
Mr. Culhane is wondering if there are any records of unusual incidents at intake at either facility, medication problems – can we ask for this information?
Cheryl Green said that asking for kind of data would be an additional burden on an already overworked staff – that is already contained in public documents. She understands the value of that information – it is available from DOC, the committee should not impose on staff
Mr. Culhane asked specifically about medical – Mr. Koch said yes, it is part of the report. Ms. Constantino said we have to get access to that information since that is the crux of our work
Chair said we use data/complaints in hospital setting to drive the program and create changes. Each specific episode is not something you want to focus on – so perhaps access to quarterly aggregate report might be helpful.
Ms. Constantino said possibly it could be given with coded names. If we cannot get that information then we cannot be an effective board. Needs to be some kind of summary that comes to the board.
Mr. Lex stated that he believes the Chairs suggestion of a quarterly report is a good one.
Chair said if there are no objections he would ask about the paper trail and how the board could get access to that information. Compiling data and making comparisons instead of looking at individual incidences may prove more useful for identifying trends and offering suggestions.
Rev. Pierce said he believes Article II, Sec. 1, initially the words in that paragraph said “from the public” – committee on bylaws changed to “interested parties”
Cheryl Green added that by saying interested parties that will now include inmates and staff.
Ms. Constantino asked if there was an issue in the board looking at staff complaints.
Ms. Green pointed out that public sector employees are not typically hesitant to lodge complaints. They can lodge complaint with Board, then it will be referred to the Sheriff’s Dept.
Chair asked from an operational standpoint – how is a complaint lodged with the board? Ie: what if one of us, as a board member, is approached with a complaint? What is the mechanism to bring back to the board?
Ms. Amin said Prisoner’s Rights Coalition has discussed this issue and contemplated a dedicated hotline or the ability to send through the mail or have locked drop boxes in the facilities. Not sure it needs to be included in bylaws but all interested parties need to be aware of this access.
Prisoners Rights Coalition Has a P.O. Box and she could add ECCCAB to the name of the box. Not sure how a locked drop box could be used.
These could be for suggestions as well as complaints.
Mr. Burgin said he believes that there are already systems in place. Mr. Carr confirmed
Mr. Koch said he did not want locked drop boxes so he would never be accused of having interfered with the information – correspondence should go straight to the board.
Ms. Constantino asked if the Prisoners Rights Coalition had ever received complaints
Ms. Amin said yes, they have – explained it is not a formalized group just informal group that has grown up around problems that were observed at the holding center.
Ms. Amin noted that one COC report noted that the grievenence procedure was not effective at the correctional facilities.
Ms. Constantino said she did not want the board to get in the way of the prisoner’s rights group – maybe they could sort through complaints and then pass through those that are appropriate to the board.
Ms. Amin said the number of the prisoners rights group phone is her home phone – she does not have time to take in all complaints with her other duties.
Mr. Culhane insisted that the boxes could be put in law library and housing unites.
Mr. Koch pointed out that his staff would have to transmit those messages and that he feared this would open up the staff to complaints of intervention
Ms. Green said she understands there are political versions/agendas on both sides – each have own position. Don’t think it is appropriate to accept at face value the position by anyone at whatever level. She doesn’t want to get bogged down in technical aspects – but we should be working towards the board’s mission. By asking the staff to provide reports – create aggregate data – we are not focusing on the greater mission. It becomes irrelevant what anyone is saying at state, federal or county level – getting aggregate data and analyzing to offer suggestions is our role.
We should not be judge and jury – we should look at trends and offer suggestions
Mr. Lex concurred – and said we are a pass through for complaints.
Ms. Amin said she is okay with that, her group will continue to take in all complaints
Mr. Culhane is worried that the people inside have access to lodging complaints.
Ms. Haynes asked if the quarterly reports would be based on data from inside facility, noted that there are other complaints that should be added to data.
Ms. Green said the reports are very complete and dense – asking what data she believes is missing from the reports
Ms. Haynes said she does not know what is missing – because she needs to see reports- but thinks there should be another channel for reports.
Chair clarified that there are 2 different conversations – first, is there another possible channel for complaints to be given to the boards and second, what would the board do with the complaint data that is received, operationally. Possibly should wait for full committee of 15 to decide what to do with the complaints that are received. Representative sample is more manageable to suggest solutions – helps focus the group.
Mr. Koch said they should send to the Legislature
Mr. Lex said to send to Secretary or send to through the webpage
Chair suggested possibly add a comment section to the website
Mr. Lex – we should create standardized complaint/comment form that would simplify evaluating and categorize the data received. With checkboxes?
Ms. Constantino suggested using Survey Monkey for the online version to compile data easily
Chair asked for volunteers for a subcommittee – Ms. Haynes and Mr. Culhane volunteered
Mr. Burgin asked would there be thousands? Mr. Koch said about 10 complaints per week are usually received
Chair reiterated that the subcommittee will create a standardized complaint/comment form
Ms. Constantino offered to help with format
Chair asked if there were any more comments on this issue of Article II sec 1
Chair then asked if there was any more new business
Rev. Pierce said that the complaints he has heard from both staff and inmates is the problem of air circulation. Parts of the facilities that are not usable due to this issue – need to work on this issue as the summer approaches.
Rev. Pierce made a motion that Sheriff Dept be directed to have an air quality analysis completed and the board be made aware of the results, with emphasis on utilizing areas not used.
Ms. Green and Mr. Koch asked what areas he was speaking about
Rev. Pierce said older area in housing and the gym area at the holding center.
Ms. Green said that she believes that he is mixing apples and oranges – State regulations require that you have fresh air available in gym setting. County Executive allocated money to put in windows that open – but State did not allow citing safety concerns.
Rev. Pierce said if we have a complaint we should be addressing this issue
Ms. Green said that is mis-information and asked who would pay for it?
Mr. Koch said building was constructed with the blessing of the state – at some point they came in and said they had to have gym activities outdoors – starting to use the roof area. According to state commission of corrections we cannot use without taking roof off.
Ms. Green said she believes it is ridiculous to have a beautiful gym not be able to use it.
Rev. Pierce said he is only asking for an air quality analysis. It will tell us officially what is the air flow issue. Felt that he was being blocked by members of the Committee on this issue.
Ms. Green said she is not trying to problem solve – she is concerned about who would pay for it and feels this is beyond the scope of what the board is being asked to do.
Ms. Constantino clarified that we should be asking for how to solve the problem, working with COC or asking for private funds
Mr. Carr said this issue has been addressed prior – the vents were cleaned, air evaluated. As far as the gym goes – we have worked towards it, deputies want it open. COC comes in the building to find something wrong – there are fans, but the inmates don’t like them because they are loud. Ask deputies to turn them off and open windows. COC came in, couldn’t find anything wrong – answer was close the doors to cut off air circulation. Windows were installed, it was not enough for COC.
Chair believes discussion of the issue at the Board can help publicize the issues and politically push for a solution. Everyone agrees that opening the gym is important.
Rev. Pierce said he still wants to forward his motion. Ms. Constantino said she would re-word to advise that the Sheriff Dept continues to monitor air quality. Mr. Lex wanted to broaden to include language to explore options to open gym including things such as monitoring air quality
Motion was revised to state “we advise the sheriff dept to initiate air quality settings with the emphasis on reopening/utilizing the gym”
Mr. Burgin seconded, motion carried unanimously
AMENDED at Meeting 6 to ADD: “Commission of Corrections does not object to the indoor gym being used as an additional recreation area – but the outdoor gym can be used. There are additional issues which prohibit using the indoor area including financial and staffing issues.”
Mr. Burgin asked if there were other gyms – Mr. Koch said no, there is outdoor recreation.
Mr. Lex asked is there a possibility of a waiver – Mr. Koch said doesn’t think so – all new jail design includes outdoor recreation areas.
Mr. Carr said we have outdoor area, but do not have the staff to offer this recreation. Sheriff should just open up – let COC deal with it whatever way they can – inmates and staff want it
Ms. Constantino left meeting
Mr. Culhane asked about money designated for education that was “re-routed” – commissary fund – wanted to bring to the attention of the board.
Chair asked if it would be appropriate to ask the undersheriff where the issue stands?
Mr. Culhane concurred
Chair asked for other new business
No new business
Chair introduced Mr. Curr to speak to board
Mr Curr: The New York Civil Liberties Union worked with many community based organizations. Regarding these issues – would like to offer to the board a dedicated phone line number for complaints. If only to route the formal complaints, would give this body a mechanism to take in and track these complaints. Further advantages- cost would not be borne by county, understand the board does not have a budget. Simple process to talk about control of the line – to discuss statistics. Identify a point person that would have control over line – the NYCLU would bear the cost of the line. This would allow those that don’t have internet access to have a way to file complaints. Would be step in direction of addressing the concerns talked about today.
Mr. Martin is concerned that this board is a creation of the Legislature – not sure they it cannot work with outside entities.
Mr. Culhane pointed out that the Board has no budget
Mr. Martin said we have a phone line, mailbox and website at the Legislature.
Ms. Haynes asked if the Legislature could offer a dedicated line. Mr. Martin said a request could be made. Ms. Haynes asked if it was a legal issue?
Ms. Green used example that we could not have a company donate/volunteer to install playground equipment b/c of laws and regulations around accepting gifts as a county entity. Practical concerns from attorney standpoint, about being given access to information that would possibly lead to a lawsuit.
Ms. Haynes said she is not interested in suing, wants to hear about problems before they get to the point where they would sue.
Mr. Lex said he thought it was preferable to have a county phone line if possible.
Chair pointed out that there was a subcommittee to look at complaint form – maybe they could also look at formal complaint line as well – then make request to the Legislature for resources.
Mr. Burgin then asked if his organization would be obligated to fund this line as well since they are part of this board
Chair said he didn’t know, need to explore
Mr. Carr said that he thought the county should be able to set up voicemail
Mr. Lex said just have to have someone monitor voicemail
Chair said it would make sense to have a dedicated committee to monitor/sift through calls before they come before committee
Chair thanked Mr. Curr for his generous offer and for speaking to the Board
Chair asked board members with the monthly meetings starting on May 3rd, was there a need for the April 26th meeting
All Committee members present concurred that next meeting should be May 3rd at 1:00 pm
Ms. Green made motion to adjourn, Rev. Pierce seconded – meeting adjourned
Next Meeting May 3, 2011 at 1:00pm