Recent deaths renew push for changes at Erie County jails

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BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) A nurse at the Erie County Holding Center has been fired following the investigation into an inmate’s death in August.

“He was a basketball star at Buffalo Traditional High School,” said Krystal Avant regarding her brother, Connell Burrell, 44. He was serving a 15 day sentence for disorderly conduct in July. He was a diabetic who had been receiving insulin from the staff at the Erie County Holding Center.

But one night, when his glucosamine was low, he was given a peanut butter sandwich, which his family believes only complicated his ability to breathe, and he died a short time later, according to Avant. “Why would you give someone a peanut butter sandwich when they don’t even know what’s going on. So what would make you think they were going to be able to chew it.”

The Erie County Sheriff’s Office tells News 4, a nurse at the Holding Center has been fired as a result of what happened. “The nurse that was fired already is just one step,” said Monica Lynch, Burrell’s sister. “We got to change all the conditions within the Holding Center and out at the Erie County Correctional Facility.”

Just last Friday, an inmate committed suicide inside the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden, bringing the total number to 27 inmate deaths in the past 14 years at both jails. That’s an average of about two deaths per year in a jail system where about 20-thousand inmates pass through each year.

“One death is one death too many,” said April Baskin, chair of the Erie County Legislature. “When someone is in the custody of Erie County because they are a detainee or an inmate, it is our responsibility to make sure that they have basic human needs.”

Baskin says an eleven member Erie County Correctional Specialist Advisory Board is expected to be in place by the end of October and begin holding their first meetings this winter.

“They need changes,” said June Lewis, an aunt of Burrell. “This has been going on too long and just as it happened to our family, the people should know it could happen to theirs.”

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