A group of concerned citizens took legal action against Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard, and they won.
The lawsuit started just before Sheriff Howard was up for re-election around this time last year.
Four people asked the state supreme court to compel Sheriff Howard to report serious inmate incidents the way he’s supposed to report them to the New York State Commission of Corrections.
A year ago, Sheriff Howard said he’d comply with state rules, but then according to the lawsuit, he did not.
As an example, the Commission of Corrections requires suicide attempts be reported as “life threatening situations.” He instead categorized some as “manipulative gestures.”
Nan Haynes, one of the four petitioners and a former law professor at UB, says its not OK for the Sheriff to decide which laws he will or will not follow.
“Now that we have that order, should Sheriff Howard fail to report instances as he’s required to do under the law, he can be held in contempt of court, and he can be fined. And if it’s egregious enough, he could even be placed in jail,” Haynes told News 4 on Wednesday.
A county attorney representing Sheriff Howard told the Buffalo News he’ll appeal the decision. News 4 was unable to reach attorney Jeremy Toth, but Haynes says for now, they’ve won, and they’ll fight any appeal.
Earlier this year, the Commission of Corrections listed the Erie County Holding Center as one of the five worst jails in the state.
A spokesperson for Sheriff Howard referred News 4 to Erie County, and a county spokesperson did not return a call nor an email Wednesday.