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Stubbornness of Collins and Co. will cost the county

Tim Howard, Chris Collins and Cheryl Green have invited blowback for their obstinance in addressing problems at the county jail and Holding Center and the state Commission of Correction has obliged them.

Matt Spina reports in Thursday's paper that the commission has said "no mas" to waivers granted in the past that have allowed the county to house more inmates at its jail in Alden than the facility was built to hold.

Reports Spina:

As of Wednesday, the correctional facility's population of 796 exceeded its "rated capacity" by only two inmates, state officials said. However, the prison in the past has needed to go well beyond 794 inmates, especially in busy summer months ...

The commission refused to renew two "variances," dating to 1997, which let the facility crowd an additional 53 inmates into the medium-security facility in Alden.

Other variances have been removed in recent years amid state concerns about staffing, crowding and management at prison from which the murderous Ralph "Bucky" Phillips escaped in 2006.

Howard, Collins and Green no doubt will not be fazed by the added expense of $100 a day to house inmates elsewhere. I mean, they're willing to pay  legal bills that average $425 an hour to defend the status quo at the jail and Holding Center.

Then again, as Rod Watson points out in his column today, the county is facing the prospect of paying out big bucks in wrongful death lawsuits.

After an appropriate period of mourning, lawyers must be salivating over the prospect of suing the county for suicide after suicide at a jail the feds have already warned is deficient.

It won’t take much to prepare a case; all a lawyer will have to do is read verbatim from the U. S. Justice Department lawsuit against the county. The closing argument would be fairly easy:

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the deceased might be alive today if the county had let the Justice Department inspect the jail unfettered by county chaperons—but Chris Collins and Timothy Howard said no.

The county's handling of prisoners seems to be going from bad to worse.

Tim howard Last weekend, yet another inmate hung himself at the Holding Center. That makes nine since 2003. The county has been warned that cells provide too many ways for inmates to hang themselves, but officials have failed to act.

Earlier this week, a sheriff's department sergeant and four deputies were suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into charges that a holding center inmate was roughed up.

The U.S. Justice Department, meanwhile, continues its legal efforts to end what it considers the county's maltreatment of prisoners.

Not that the month has been a total washout for the county executive. I mean, his work to welfare initiative has kicked off.


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