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Safety Matters: New jail reception area to streamline admittance

BUFFALO — Within the next few weeks, our new reception area at the Erie County Holding Center will be ready for use. We turned the gym, which was no longer deemed usable, into a state-of-the-art area that could serve as a model for other jails. It will allow a more streamlined transition of inmates, once they enter the jail, and help get them through the classification process a lot more quickly. The $1.2 million project was three years in the making, but after overcoming numerous hurdles, we expect it to be operational in early October.

The New York State Commission of Corrections mandates that inmates be moved into their primary housing assignments within four hours. That proved extremely difficult, for a variety of reasons. The inmates have to be evaluated medically, mentally and have their security risk assessed, all within that frame of time. To say that was a daunting task would be an understatement, given the busy environment on the ground floor of the facility, where inmates are dropped off by various police agencies and booked into the jail, while others are being moved out for court and medical appointments.

The new reception area allows for “one-stop” shopping, if you will. Once the inmates are booked into the facility on the ground floor, they will be immediately escorted upstairs, into the new reception area, where they will be assessed medically by nurses; evaluated by trained mental health care providers and given their housing classification. If an individual is deemed in need of medical or mental health care or is “de-toxing,” they will be assigned a bed in the reception area where, under the watchful eye of health care providers, they will be given treatment until they are ready to receive their housing assignment.

This is a win-win situation for everyone involved, but especially for the newly admitted inmate who is more likely to reveal drinking, drug and suicidal tendencies to a medical professional, as opposed to a security officer. This new process also helps reduce the backlog on the ground floor; reduce the backlog of idling police cars in the driveway waiting to drop their prisoners off; cuts down on the movement of personnel and, last but not least, helps inmates get to their assigned cells or treatment a lot quicker.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my staff for having the foresight to come up with this plan and see it come to fruition. Deputy Superintendent Mike Reardon did a yeoman’s job in getting this job off the ground and completed and Superintendent Tom Diina, as well as the entire jail management staff is to be commended for their hard work, as well.

With this huge undertaking, we demonstrated our ability to respond to the ever-changing mandates of the corrections industry, while saving taxpayer resources, by utilizing existing space in a more efficient manner.
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