Onondaga County Legislature Must Prevent Jail Deaths

On April 24, the New York State Commission of Correction released its report (PDF) on the Aug. 6, 2010 death of Raul Pinet, Jr. at the Onondaga County Justice Center. Following an investigation that lasted 20 months, the commission ruled the death a homicide and faulted sheriff's deputies for improperly restraining Pinet, causing his suffocation. On May 1, 2012, Barrie Gewanter, director of the NYCLU's Central New York Chapter, made the following statement to the Onodaga County Legislature on the commission's report and conditions at the county jail:       "The Onondaga County Sheriff is repeating fatal failures in the jail.       "Fifteen years ago Lucinda Batts died in the jail of a burst ectopic pregnancy while deputies and medical staff dismissed her agony as faking. Fifteen years later, Chuniece Patterson died in the same way. Same cause of death, same circumstances, same fatal results.       "Fifteen years ago, Johnny Hud Williams died in the jail from positional asphyxia after jail deputies kneeled or stood on his chest. Fifteen years later, Raul Pinet Jr. died under similar circumstances. According to the Commission of Correction report, same cause of death, same circumstances, same fatal results.       "It is clear that we can't count on the sheriff to evaluate incidents at the jail and ensure a proper response, or properly supervise and police his own staff. What is the County Legislature going to do to accomplish what the sheriff seems unwilling or unable to do?       "It is time for you to exercise your oversight responsibility to prevent more such tragedies, or to establish an independent mechanism to ensure oversight of the policies and practices in the jail."  

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