Erie County Legislature approves feasibility study for new county-owned jail

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Initially, Erie County lawmakers were set to approve money to buy land for a new jail Thursday. But that was put on hold, and instead, Erie County will do a study on whether a new jail is feasible or not.

This was following dozens of people showing up for the legislature’s meeting criticizing how the proposal of a new jail has been rolled out — they also held signs indicating they do not want a new jail.

“They need to release people who are in there with mental health issues and get them to treatment facilities that deal with mental health, they need to decarcerate addicts and stop just giving them medication and get them in rehabilitation centers where they get the proper treatment therapy and help,” said Jerome Wright of the Corrections Specialist Advisory Board. “I will admit that jail has some issues, but not issues that demand we take 200 plus million dollars in taxpayer money to fund and build one when what’s going on down there is not right, two jail that are not working properly you’re going to take that same culture and bring them into one jail.”

Earlier this month, in his State of the County address, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said $2.5 million would go to buying land, engineering and architectural work. At that time, we also heard from Erie County Sheriff John Garcia on his goal to close both county jails and open up a new one in the City of Buffalo.

The Sheriff’s Office says that would save taxpayer dollars with cuts being made to staff. But, critics of the plan say they were blindsided.

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“This body has a responsibility to be good fiscal stewards over public dollars and taxpayer dollars and so we’re going to not put the cart before the horse, we will fund not just a feasibility study, but also a needs assessment to properly understand what the needs are in Erie County when it comes to our local incarceration facilities,” said Erie County Legislator April Baskin.

County lawmakers ended up approving $750,000 to do a feasibility study for a new jail. After this, officials will make a decision on what happens next. Sheriff Garcia estimates the cost of a new jail could be about $200 million. Poloncarz says state and federal grants would go toward a new jail.

Plans for the new jail are very much still in the early stages. Sheriff Garcia says the new jail has to be in the City of Buffalo so that it’s close to the courts.

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Erie County Legislature approves feasibility study for new county-owned jail

Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.

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