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Plans for Erie County Holding Center revealed

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Posted at 4:53 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 16:53:28-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — House nearly all inmates at the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden, and use the Erie County Holding Center for mostly inmate pre-release services.

That is the proposal Erie County Jail administrators asked legislators to consider during Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting.

“This idea was born at the directive from the county to reduce spending in light of the financial economic impact from COVID-19,” explained Jail Management Division Superintendent, Thomas Diina.

Under the proposal, the only inmates that would be housed at the Holding Center are maximum level offenders, anyone with mental health needs, and anyone in the pre-release program just prior to the end of their sentence.

The proposal is drawing concern from Legislative Chair April Baskin. She questioned whether housing inmates in the suburbs would impact family and legal visitation.

“I feel like we are going to further poverty, further the crime rate, further the health disparities, and unemployment,” she said.

Diina said virtual visits are a possible solution if transportation is any issue. He’s also requested the N.F.T.A. reinstate a bus route to Alden.

“Nothing is more important than contact with your loved ones to relieve stress for the incarcerated population. So, it’s absolutely something we’re going to address,” he said.

So far, no full-time corrections officers have been laid off. Diina said he wasn't sure whether that would remain the case in the future.

It’s still unclear exactly how much the plan would reduce taxpayer spending. It’s a question neither Undersheriff Mark Wipperman, or Diina could answer during Tuesday’s meeting. However, Wipperman indicated he could get the documentation.

“It’s tough to put a dollar figure on it. you know me, ’m not a numbers guy. I’m a jail guy,” Diina added.

We reached out to the sheriff’s office for the information but haven’t heard back.