Four deaths in less than three months is an obscenity. The death of Robert Ingalsbe is further proof that Sheriff Howard is incapable of managing Erie County’s jail operations.

There have been 31 deaths in Erie County’s jails since Timothy Howard became Sheriff in 2005. These deaths are a stain on our community, and a burden to taxpayers. Three of the most recent deaths have involved the medical unit at the Holding Center. The legislature cannot stand by while these deaths mount. I am requesting that Sheriff Howard, the head physician of Correctional Health and Erie County Mental Health Commissioner Michael Ranney attend the next meeting of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee to discuss medical protocols, particularly those relating to suicide and drug withdrawal.

The legislature has previously committed significant funding to the prevention and treatment of opioid abuse, including funds for the Sheriff’s Office. We need to understand how Sheriff Howard’s leadership has impacted the implementation of these programs and what steps can be taken to overhaul medical treatment for prisoners.

In addition, the 2020 budget process is underway, and I will examine the Sheriff’s requested budget to see what resources he is seeking to help detainees going through withdrawal from substance dependency.

When I asked for a breakdown of expenditures from Correctional Health at a Public Safety Committee Meeting two weeks ago, the Minority Leader accused me of holding “animosity” against Jail Management. I have no personal animosity towards the Sheriff. But when we consider the 31 deaths that have occurred on his watch, it is clear that the legislature must provide stronger oversight.