County, Department of Justice Reach Agreement in Ongoing Jail Lawsuit

August 18, 2011 Updated Aug 18, 2011 at 6:35 PM EDT

By Kyla Igoe

...
August 18, 2011 Updated Aug 18, 2011 at 6:35 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and Erie County have reached an agreement to a drawn-out legal dispute over conditions inside the Erie County Holding Center and the Erie County Correction Facility. In 2009, the DOJ filed suit against the county and claimed the conditions inside the facilities deprived prisoners of constitutional rights, provided inadequate medical and mental health care, failed to protect prisoners from harm, and had deficiencies in environmental health and safety. The agreement, in a signed document by both parties, requires the county to provide adequate mental health programs, add staff including psychiatrists and counselors, and reform overall medical procedures. The county will also hire 2 independent watch dogs to oversee that the policies are implemented and report findings to a federal judge.

"What began as a cooperative effort and could have ended the moment the county agreed to the minimal constitutional protections that's its now committed to," said United States Attorney William Hochul of the Western District of New York. "Finally after all these years and all this expenditures of judicial resources has been resolved in today's agreement."

Erie County Executive Chris Collins says the lawsuit was inappropriate from the start and the DOJ could never provide proof that the facilities violated civil and constitutional rights. Collins also said his administration stood up for erie county taxpayers and saved millions with this agreement.

"No longer under the belief that Erie County would simply rollover, and up against the clock without the legal case it claimed to have, the DOJ was forced to agree to dismiss the case against Erie County," said Collins.

Even though the county and the Department of Justice have signed a written agreement to end the lawsuit, a federal judge will have to sign off on the document.