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Erie County and DOJ end jail lawsuit

Erie County Executive Chris Collins, Sheriff Tim Howard and County Attorney Jeremy Colby
Photo courtesy of WNED-AM
Erie County Executive Chris Collins, Sheriff Tim Howard and County Attorney Jeremy Colby

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The Collins Administration and the United States Attorney's office are both claiming victory with an agreement filed Thursday that ends a four-year battle over conditions at the Erie County Holding Center and the Alden Correctional facility.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York William Hochul called the stipulated order of dismissal an historic agreement that will improve jail conditions and protect prisoners rights.

Erie County Executive Chris Collins called the order a "retreat" by the Department of Justice from a lawsuit he said it knew could not be won.

Collins said the county saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by forcing the DOJ to drop the suit. But Hochul called that "spin."

"We insisted on, as the record makes clear, minimal constitutional standards. Once the County indicated it was prepared to do that and sign a document committing - not only the County, but all agents of the County all future officers of the County - we were prepared on behalf of the government to finally conclude this matter with this lenghty written document and contract," said Hochul.

The order requires the county to retain two technical compliance consultants to monitor upgrades and policies at the holding center and the jail in Alden. Additional staff, including psychologists and counselors, also will be hired to do screening and treatment for suicide prevention.

Collins said these are steps the County was already taking, not a result of the order.

A federal judge is currently reviewing the order and must sign it before it is binding.