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New Holding Center reception area to streamline inmate intake

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Chris Caya/WBFO News
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Improvements designed to streamline the intake of inmates at the Erie County Holding Center in downtown Buffalo are nearly complete.The jail's gym, unused for nearly ten years because it no longer met federal guidelines, has been transformed into a 36-bed reception area for inmates with medical or mental health needs. The dorm-style room allows the county to give inmates their own bed within four hours of arrival, as mandated by law.

When inmates arrive, they will now receive a comprehensive assessment in one place, instead of medical staff having to move throughout the jail.

"Everything that we are going to be doing in this area has always been done. It has just never been in one space," said Superintendent of Jail Management Thomas Diina.

Sheriff Timothy Howard says having all inmates with special needs in one location makes providing 24-hour nursing coverage more efficient for the nursing staff.  

"We have come from being one of the jails with a poorer process to probably one of the best jails in the whole country with this new process," Howard said.

While Holding Center conditions prompted investigations in the past, First Deputy Superintendent of Compliance Mike Reardon says it has been "a long time" since the county had any problems with the Department of Corrections.

"This puts us in a much better light. It brings us up to a model program. We're not doing this to get out of any issues with the state. We just want to do it to become that better jail," Reardon said.

The space includes a lavatory, shower room, and two flat-screen TVs. The project cost taxpayers $1.2 million. It should be open within 30 days.