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State Sues Erie County over Holding Center Operations

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Thomas Beilein

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – The State Commission of Correction filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Erie County over the operation of its holding center downtown. Commission Chair Thomas Beilein says the county has "persistently violated" regulations.

Beilein says the violations range from failing to provide inmates with access to a toilet to the "troubling" denial of due process in disciplinary matters.

"The filing of this lawsuit is an unfortunate but necessary action," Beilein said in a written statement announcing the suit.

"As a former sheriff (Niagara County) who operated a large urban jail for 14 years, I fully understand the economic and logistical difficulties that the maintenance of a correctional facility imposes on a local government," he said. "Regardless, Erie County has an obligation to its citizens to operate their jail in a safe and secure manner, and the Commission of Correction has an obligation to enforce state regulations."

Beilein says the commission is not seeking to impose costly reforms but just wants to see the jail run in a more responsible manner.

Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard calls the lawsuit a "blatant political attack." Howard says the jails operate in a safe and humane manner.

The US Justice Department is also involved in a separate and unrelated probe of the holding center and county jail in Alden.