VERIFY: Protests continue against Sheriff Howard

Verifying Critics Of Sheriff Howard

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- As protesters continue to rally against Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard, 2 On Your Side set out to verify their claims.

The protesters claimed, "The suicide rate in the Holding Center was five times the national average."

That's true, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which settled a federal lawsuit with the county more than a half decade ago. The DOJ said, "...the United States' suicide prevention expert found that the suicide rate at the Holding Center was five times the national average."

However, there's missing context. That figure is from 2010. A spokesperson for Sheriff Howard said the Erie County Holding Center has been in compliance with the DOJ agreement ever since the agency gained the necessary resources.

Secondly, the protesters claim there have been 26 deaths at the Holding Center under Howard's watch.

2 On Your Side was unable to verify that claim, because there does not appear to be an official list of inmate deaths since 2005, when Howard was first elected. The group called SURJ, or "Showing Up for Racial Justice" provided a list to 2 On Your Side that it says was compiled using media reports. That list included the 26 names.

Howard's spokesperson neither confirmed nor denied the group's claim of 26 inmate deaths.

The final assertion from Howard's critics is that he is misreporting inmate suicide attempts as "inmate disturbances."

That's true, according to the State Commission of Correction, which called out the Sheriff for a "willingness to completely ignore the commission's reportable incident regulations."

The Commission sent Howard two directives, which -- among other things -- outline four incidents of apparent attempted suicides that weren't properly reported.

Non-compliance with the Commission could lead to a lawsuit, according to a spokesperson. The Sheriff has until Tuesday to reply to the directives.

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© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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