Updated: Friday, 02 Jul 2010, 11:14 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 02 Jul 2010, 11:14 PM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB.com) - Former inmates have complained about it, and Uncle Sam is suing Erie County over it.
Today, for the first time in years, cameras went inside the Erie County Holding Center.
Sheriff Tim Howard wouldn't allow Justice Department inspectors inside until a Federal Judge ordered it. But Friday, the Sheriff threw the jail doors open for the media.
The Erie County Holding Center has been ground zero in a federal lawsuit over recent suicides and claims of prisoner abuse.
Erie County settled part of the lawsuit agreeing to new suicide prevention measures.
"You can see a bunk with holes in it, we put metal down the bars you can no longer access the bars and the vents have been changed so people can longer tie things into them," said Mike Reardon, the Chief of Jail Operations.
This cell is just one of two types.
Reardon also noted, "We have linear which is the old time bar housing which everyone thinks of as a jail and we have podular housing."
Each day the holding center averages about sixty to eighty new inmates. Upon arrival the inmate is frisked, finger printed and given a medical and suicide screening. Then issued an orange jumpsuit.
"You're given a bed roll which is a sheet, pillowcase, blanket, and a drinking cup, toothpaste and soap," stated Reardon.
As in the movies, prisoners get a free phone call to arrange bail. But the holding center's gymnasium and workout room are off limits to prisoners.
Reardon mentioned, "Because of the commission of corrections I can not use this gym because there is no fresh air."
Smoking is not allowed in the jail which, Reardon, says helps keep it cleaner.