Erie County and US Justice Department agree on suicide prevention plan at Holding Center

Buffalo, NY – A deal announced late Thursday afternoon between Erie County and the US Justice Department will improve suicide screening at the Holding Center.

Under the agreement, jail staff will receive annual training. The design of cells at the Holding Center will also change. Bunks, bars and air vents that have made it possible for inmates to hang themselves will be altered or redesigned entirely to minimize the likelihood of them being used in suicide attempts.

Click the audio player above to hear US Attorney William Hochul discuss the agreement at a news conference Friday afternoon at his downtown office now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.

As part of the deal, the county agreed to pay a third-party contractor who will monitor compliance.

The agreement signed by officials from the Justice Department and Erie County Executive Chris Collins now goes to US District Judge William Skretny for final acceptance.

The agreement, even with Skretny's approval, does not settle the Justice Department's lawsuit against the county. It puts to rest only the claim the Erie County fails to protect inmates from harming themselves.

County Executive Collins said with or without the lawsuit the changes would have been made inside the Holding Center.