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Western Regional Office — NYCLU Victory Requires Erie County to Reveal Jail Spending Records

Erie County Holding Center
Erie County Holding Center

NYCLU Victory Requires Erie County to Reveal Jail Spending Records

Erie County Holding Center

The NYCLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) request seeking records of taxpayer money used to defend against investigations and legal actions involving conditions at the Erie County Holding Center in Buffalo. After the County rejected the records request, the NYCLU filed suit in State Supreme Court against Erie County in June, 2010. In August, State Supreme Court Justice, Timothy Drury ruled in favor of the NYCLU, and ordered the County to turn over 10 years of records detailing spending related to jail lawsuits and investigations to the NYCLU. “This is a victory for open government” said NYCLU Western Regional Office Director, John A. Curr III. “The Public has a right to know about the fiscal consequences of county officials’ decisions to block legal efforts to expose and correct inhumane conditions in the County Correctional Facilities”. Over the last tow years, the county has paid private law firms more than $264,000 to assist its legal department regarding the jails. IT is paying attorneys fro the high-powered Washington D.C. based law firm Alson & Bird $425 an hour according to a signed retainer agreement. For years, Erie County has aggressively resisted investigations and subsequent legal challenges by the State and Federal Government regarding inhumane and unconstitutional conditions at the two county jails. Investigations and legal complaints initiated by the U.S. Justice Department and the State Commission of Corrections have included allegations of inadequate medical care, violent treatment by prison personnel, and poor efforts to protect suicidal inmates. “For at least a decade, Erie County has taken an obstructionist approach to efforts to hold it accountable for inhumane conditions at its jails,” said NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Corey Stoughton, lead counsel in the case. “The Court decision is a step toward making sure that the public has the information to hold the County responsible and accountable for its decisions.”  

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