Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz signed into law the creation of a new panel which, when seated, will observe and advise those who manage the county's jails in order to ensure those incarcerated are given fair treatment.
The new Erie County Corrections Specialist Advisory Board was formed to replace a non-functioning Community Corrections Advisory Board with a panel that supporters say will be more robust and inclusive.
Poloncarz's signature enacts its creation. He explained that the new board will advise and guide those who work in corrections to ensure that those jailed, suspects and convicts, are given fair treatment.
"It's giving people the tools so that they're treated appropriately when they're in one of our facilities," Poloncarz said. "Also, if they have committed a crime and are convicted of it, that as they're going through the system we also give them the tools so they can become better citizens when they are released."
So who will make up this new board? Legislature Chair April Baskin said it will include professionals who work with corrections. It may also include some who have seen the county jails from both sides of the bars.
"Anyone who has been formerly incarcerated, to a former corrections officer, to a former police officer or probation officer, anyone who has had interactions with the criminal justice system professionally does qualify."
The legislation creating this new advisory board was passed unanimously by the full Legislature, Baskin noted.
"We want to make sure no one's human rights are being violated," she said. "I think we know we've had some malpractice and some side steps when it comes to the Office of the Sheriff. But I think that empaneling a board of professional and professionals that come from our community will help us in Erie County, that are serious about reform, reach more productivity and the goals that we want to see."