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Gross negligence cited for Holding Center escape

Erie County Holding Center, Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY
WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley
Erie County Holding Center, Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY

By Mark Scott and Andrew Polino

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-903003.mp3

Buffalo, NY – The State Commission of Correction says the October 2009 escape of an inmate from the Erie County Holding Center is the result of the "gross negligence and incompetence" of the Sheriff and his top managers.

The Commission's investigation concluded inmate Brian Collins escaped from his cell because he was not properly supervised. Commission Chairman Thomas Beilein says the escape was "entirely preventable." He says there are more people responsible for the escape than just the guards on duty.

Beilein said that he wants Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard to "take a stronger leadership role" in dealing with the Holding Center.

"Sheriff Howard has 30 days to respond to us with the corrective action he has taken to fix those problems," said Beilein.

Beilein said after 30 days, the Commmission will "verify whether those problems are fixed or not."

Beilein said if they are not fixed, they will go back to State Supreme Court and "start a process of obtaining an order for him to comply with the minimum standards."

Brian Doyle, the sheriff's chief of administration, responded to the report, since Howard was not available. He says many of the findings were already uncovered by the department's internal investigation. Doyle admits the department was at fault for what happened -- a deputy was fired just days later. But he rejects the accusations of incompetence.

"We're doing the best we can with the resources we're provided," Doyle said.

Doyle also said the report is a personal attack against Sheriff Timothy Howard, who is a Republican. Beilein, the former Niagara County Sheriff, is a Democrat, leading Doyle to suggest politics is at the core of the commission's criticism.

Click the audio player above to hear Mark Scott's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.