Court Orders Erie County to Unseal Jail Condition Report
Buffalo, NY (WBEN) The Second Court of Appealshas ruled that Erie County must unseal reports on the conditions in its jails. “The public deserves the right to know what is going on inside their local jails,” said NYCLU Western Regional Office Director, John A. Curr III. “This is a victory for open government and an important step in securing healthy and humane conditions at the Erie County Holding Center, and throughout the county’s correctional system." The ruling means the public has the right to review compliance reports filed every six months in federal court pursuant to a consent decree designed to address the conditions in the County’s jails
A two-year investigation by the Justice Department found evidence of staff-inmate violence and sexual misconduct between staff and inmates, along with an inadequate monitoring system to prevent suicide at the facilities. Since 2003, nine inmates have committed suicide at both sites, and at least 15 additional inmates have attempted it. “Erie County wishes to keep the reports which measure its progress, or regress, under seal and, therefore, out of public view. Yet every aspect of this litigation is public… Erie County seeks, nonetheless, to keep the compliance reports under the darkness of a seal. But the First Amendment does not countenance Erie County’s position. Neither experience nor logic supports sealing the documents, and the District Court erred in concluding otherwise,” the Second Circuit’s decision states.