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County jail problems discussed

Inside the Erie County Holding Center
WBFO News file photo
Inside the Erie County Holding Center

Sheriff Tim Howard admits there are problems in county lockups, many of which he is powerless to do anything about.

He says there are severe staff shortages; staff discipline problems caused when punishments for bad behavior have been overturned in the courts; and, because there aren't enough supervisors.

The sheriff talked about the problems during a recent public meeting called by 100 Black Men of Buffalo.

He says the attitude under several county executives was to use overtime instead of hiring guards.

The result is staffs in the Holding Center and the Correctional Facility are a lot smaller than they used to be and they are overworked.

Howard says Albany is about to order a mass hiring of new staff, especially supervisors.

"The supervisory ratio between the sergeants and the first line officers (at county jails)  is about one sergeant to 17 employees," Howard said.

"Any management book would tell you the recommended supervisor to subordinate ratio should be one to five."

He also discussed a discipline case where a court ordered a terminated employee back on the job with a year of back pay.

"That's not how an administrative system can work."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.