Chris Collins' push to prove he is even more powerful than Buffalo mayor Byron Brown continued today. The Erie County attorney, backed by Collins, put up another roadblock to keep the Justice Department out of the Erie Count Holding Center. She has told the Justice Department that they may only interview employees and inmates in a formal deposition, which of course increases time and cost.
Last year, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Erie County contending that the county is not properly treating inmates at the holding center. The laundry list of items included: denying prisoner rights, overcrowding, and a higher than average suicide rate. Since that suit was filed, the holding center has had two more suicides and an escape, granted it was only on to the roof, but the point was made. Collins points to drug use as the main factor in the suicides, but wouldn't that say those prisoners should have been watched even closer? I think what many people forget is that the holding center is primarily for people waiting for trials. That means people that are still presumed innocent. Yet, the SPCA continues to treat stray dogs better than Sheriff Tim Howard's staff.
Collins talks so highly of Six Sigma and it's many problem-solving tools, but if Collins was really trying to solve the problem, he'd know that an outside set of eyes are often very helpful. The Justice Department is not looking to harm the county, they are trying to protect its inmates and the county residents. Let's be honest, abuse and mistreatment lawsuits aren't going to help the county's bottom line.
I think the real problem here is that the county has something to hide. There are a few truths that can't be denied by Collins and his cronies: the holding center is overcrowded and the staff is overworked. Many staff members are often forced to work mandatory overtime and this can lead to mistakes, including failing to put a prisoner on suicide watch. Collins is so quick to bar the doors to the lock-up but in the same breath says the county isn't doing something wrong. Here's a newsflash for you Chris...you definitely aren't doing something right at the jail. Otherwise, you'd let the Justice Department in.
This whole situation reeks of New York politics as a whole. Politicians will do what they want, how they want, when they want and they will not be questioned by anyone, including the federal government. Brown, Patterson, and Collins all believe they are above the law and their way is the only way things will be done. Unfortunately, the residents of Eire County will either when the lawsuits hit or they are locked up in the jail their taxes pay for. I can only wonder how long it will be until Collins decides freedom of speech isn't allowed in his county? At least when that happens I can get a personal tour of the holding center.