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NY AG: Erie County Sheriff's Office must address sexual misconduct in correctional facilities

Two males posing as utility workers in Erie County
Posted at 1:03 PM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 14:44:34-04

NEW YORK (WKBW) — New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday an agreement to force the Erie County Sheriff's Office to address sexual misconduct in correctional facilities.

AG James say the agreement resolves a March 2021 lawsuit filed on behalf of the New York State Commission of Correction (SCOC) against Erie County and Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard.

According to James, the lawsuit identifies several instances of Sheriff Howard refusing to comply with directives requiring ECSO to report allegations of sexual misconduct in the facilities to the SCOC in a timely matter. The AG says it was also discovered that ECSO conducted insufficient investigations into several incidents.

The Erie County Sheriff’s Office must finally confront the harsh realities of its correctional facilities and take real measures to end the widespread sexual misconduct perpetrated by its correction officers,” said Attorney General James. “The policies that the sheriff’s office will now be required to put in place will go far in preventing the misconduct that jeopardized the safety and wellbeing of incarcerated individuals for far too long. New Yorkers deserve transparency, accountability, and honesty from their law enforcement agencies, and this agreement ensures that they get it.
- Attorney General James

The New York Attorney General's Office says "the state has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual offenses committed against any incarcerated individual and state law deems incarcerated individuals as 'incapable of consent' to sexual conduct with facility employees."

The agreement was submitted to the Erie County Supreme Court for review and includes:

  • Forcing the sheriff’s office to uphold the SCOC’s regulations;
  • Directing the sheriff’s office and the county to appoint an independent monitor to conduct a retrospective audit of incident reporting, and provide an annual audit for the next three years;
  • Directing the sheriff’s office to provide the SCOC with proof of training for correction officers related to New York’s zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual misconduct in correctional facilities, how to handle situations where incarcerated individuals allege sexual misconduct, and the SCOC guidelines for reporting such misconduct;
  • Directing the sheriff’s office to provide specialized training for investigators and other appropriate staff regarding investigating sexual abuse in correctional settings; and
  • Developing and/or revising procedures related to the review, investigation, and assessment of reportable incidents, and to work with the SCOC to develop and improve upon existing policies and procedures.

7 Eyewitness News has contacted ECSO for comment, we are waiting to hear back.