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Genesee County Jail

February 27, 2018 - 12:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news, notify.

Faced with increasing pressure from New York's corrections commission, officials in Genesee County are exploring the requirements and necessity of building a new jail.

Among the first steps -- meet with a consultant who has studied the local criminal justice system and the current jail and hear what he learned and what he has to recommend.

Saturday morning, members of the Legislature, senior county offiicals, and Sheriff's Office staff met to hear what that consultant, Rod Miller, president of CRS Incorporated, had to say.

The bottom line: Genesee County needs a new jail. It may need to be built to meet a projected jail population of 184 by 2042. Such a jail could cost more than $52 million.

The design of the jail must also deal with reality -- the reality of state regulations and the needs of a jail population that is ever in flux.

Miller is recommending a jail design that can accommodate a growing inmate population, but one flexible enough to accommodate an average daily population that is ever changing based on age, mental stability, special needs, and gender -- these days that means not just male and female groups. The new jail also needs to accommodate transgender individuals.

Getting the public to accept a new jail, Miller acknowledges, will be difficult, but he doesn't think the state is going to give Genesee County much leeway.

The commission, he said, takes very seriously its goal to ensure a safe and operationally efficient jail system. 

New York has standards, he said. Half the states don't have standards for local jails and among those that do, New York is one of the few with strict and well-defined standards. 

"To me, that's a good thing," Miller said. "You've got somebody backing you on what you need to do."

To the advantage of local officials, Miller said, the county already has the system in place to support a modern jail.

"You have a very proactive criminal justice and social services system that works well together," Miller said. "It's really very impressive."

The biggest expense of a new jail over 30 years isn't the construction, Miller said. It's staffing. That will take up 60 percent of the county's expense over the first 30 years of a new jail's lifespan.

"New York is very intensive on staffing requirements," Miller said.

The current, aging jail, however, hasn't evolved, Miller said, to meet the demands modern society puts on it, or how the local criminal justice system to keep short-term stays at the jail to a minimum.  

The county's criminal justice system does a good job of diverting people from jail, toward release under supervision, or treatment for mental health problems or substance abuse. Therefore, generally, the people who are in the jail stay longer than three days -- more than half of all incarcerations -- and these are people who need to be there, Miller said.

But when it was designed in the 1980s, the architects didn't anticipate a facility that would mostly house people staying there for months at a time.  That's common with older jails, Miller said. 

"A lot of inmates will tell you," Miller said, "that if you're going to do a long time, jail time is the worse time."

Looking at jail population trends, the number of local average daily incarcerations is going to grow from less than 100 now to more than 180 by 2042, Miller said.

The growing inmate population locally isn't driven by more cops on the beat -- there aren't -- nor an increase in the crime rate -- it's gone down -- or any other identifiable socio-economic trend Miller said, except that more and more women are getting into serious legal trouble.

Most of Miller's projection anticipates a sizable increase in female inmate population in the coming decades. Whether that trend will continue, Miller acknowledged, just isn't something he or anybody else can predict. He said all he and the commission can do is look at the trends to come up with projections. He said intuitively, they know that much growth isn't likely, but if they back off that projection, how do they arrive at a realistic lower number? The data isn't available to support any other projection.

One thing that is known: jails need to deal more often these days with transgender individuals.

That's a sticky issue for corrections officials because you can't simply just place somebody with a male or female population based on physical appearance, what's on their birth certificate or driver's license, or their self-identification of gender. Placing an inmate with the general population based on any of those decision points is potentially dangerous.

"It's a dilemma," Miller acknowledged. "It's a practical and legal consideration. One of your obligations is protecting inmates from harm so there needs to be separation. You probably need a small housing unit for just one or two inmates at a time. You have to have that flexibility."

Jail Superintendent William Zipfel told the story of a recent inmate who identified as female. She even had a birth certificate and driver's license that said she was female.

"If you saw her sitting at a table or walking into a room, you would not identify her as anything but female," Zipfel said.

She hadn't yet gone through a sex-change operation, however, and the Genesee County Jail can't house female inmates.

"There was not another facility that was going to take her as a female and we can't put her in a male facility," Zipfel said. 

Fortunately, a judge was willing to release her to the supervision of Genesee Justice, Zipfel said.

As good as the local criminal justice system is, Miller said, there is one gap local officials should consider addressing. Currently, the county doesn't have a good way to deal with people who don't have mental health or substance abuse problems but are otherwise in life circumstances where they would benefit from supervision while their cases are pending or while serving time for a conviction.

Miller recommended -- and said he's seen it work very well in other jurisdictions -- inclusion at a new jail location a facility that houses inmates during non-work hours but allows them to hold down a job. In fact, to live in the facility, inmates would be required to hold down a job and they would help cover the cost of their room and board.

The addition of a facility to house people in this subcategory of not-hardened-criminal, nor the mental health case, nor substance abuse case, especially during pre-trial periods, would be welcome by local judges and magistrates, Miller said. It's always a struggle, he said, for magistrates to decide what to do with this class of offender, whether to put them in jail or release them into the community.

The option would also assist the community by helping to prevent defendants from losing jobs, which can just make their problems worse, and therefore they become more of a burden on the community.

Jail for a defendant, Miller noted, is always the more expensive option.

The jail also isn't equipped to deal with the recently arrested who might be released in less than a day after being taken into custody.  

With local courts increasingly not opening for arrests at night, more defendants are being held for extended hours until the court is open for their initial arraignment.

Batavia PD, Le Roy PD, and Corfu PD do not have appropriate holding cells for such inmates. Batavia PD might look at adding holding cells in its plan for a new police headquarters, Miller said, but that is going to add to the expense of the facility and require extra staffing to monitor detainees.  

Once a police station has such holding cells, Miller said, the department's legal liability for the safety of the inmates increases tremendously.

It makes more sense, Miller said, to build the new jail with a plan to house and hold people for short-term stays and ensure those people are segregated from the regular jail population unless they are accused of serious crimes and are likely to be bound over anyway.

"The county can be the most cost-efficient and effective alternative to providing the service to the city, towns, and villages instead of letting them fend for themselves," Miller said.

Zipfel said one issue the local jail has with the state commission is how to handle new inmates.

When an inmate is processed they are classified in order to determine where in the jail they will be held. The state requires that they are tested for drugs and have a criminal history completed while they are being held for 72 hours before being classified. During that 72 hours, they should be under constant observation, the state says, and not mixed with another classification of inmate.  

The Genesee County Jail completes drug testing and a criminal background check immediately upon admission and then classifies them.

The difference in procedures is a source of friction between the local jail and the state commission, Zipfel said.

Any inmate who arrives at the jail under influence of drugs or alcohol must remain under constant watch, which the current jail makes difficult for corrections officers to do safely. 

Zipfel also discussed part of the admission procedure for female inmates: They are also given a pregnancy test. All of them. Jail officials are not allowed, by state regulation, from placing handcuffs on a female inmate who is pregnant or has been pregnant within the previous six weeks.

Miller acknowledged, based on his experience of going through the process in other jurisdictions, that some members of the public are going to try and find every reason not to build a new jail. He recommended officials develop a plan to educate the public on both the necessity and requirement the county is facing to build a new jail.

Which brought the legislators in the room to the discussion of whether it's realistic to discuss a regional facility shared with Orleans County. Setting aside the appearance that Orleans County seems to be heading in its own direction, officials discussed the logistic difficulty of a shared facility.

If it were in Orleans County, say, Barre, Genesee County would face the burden and expense and lost patrol time of driving inmates to and from Barre. There would also be issues to address about how the jail would be staffed, who would be responsible for it legally, or how that burden would be shared, and it isn't at all clear a shared facility would save either jurisdiction any money.

"If you have to build a jail that is twice the size with twice the staffing, how does that save money?" Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said.

There are states with examples of successful regional jails, Miller said, but in those states, the state government picked up half the cost of the jail.

That isn't likely to happen in New York.

"Unless the state picks up at least 50 percent of the cost, it's just not feasible," Legislator Gary Maha said.

April 18, 2017 - 10:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news.

The issues of an aging jail population, women involved more often in habitual criminal activity, and a greater availability and use of illicit drugs continue to vex local officials struggling to maintain cost controls on the Genesee County Jail.

Sheriff William Sheron and Jail Superintendent William Zipfel briefed members of the Genesee County Legislature at yesterday's Public Service Committee meeting on the issues that make jail operations difficult.

The expense of female inmate transport has been an ongoing issue for the past several years and the number of female inmates has held steady recently. Some of the transports have taken deputies further away from the county because of inmates with more serious issues.

Sheron said inmates have had to be placed in jails as far away as Wayne and Steuben counties.

"These are individuals for whom we’ve exhausted every alternative to incarceration," Sheron said. "They’ve been through the cycle. They’ve been before the judge many times and, basically, there is no place to put them but in jail."

Zipfel first raised the issues of older inmates and more drug problems during budget discussions in October. The problem may not have grown since then, but it's not going away.

To illustrate the kind of tougher inmate population correctional officers are dealing with these days, Zipfel told legislators about an inmate brought into the jail Friday night. He had been combative with the arresting officers but calmed down after being admitted into the jail. He was allowed to mingle with the general population, but later in the evening, he started to cause problems. He was locked in an isolation cell.

Over the course of the night, Zipfel said, the inmate slept maybe 15 minutes.

"He kicked the isolation cell door so hard and so often throughout the night that he took it off its tracks," Zipfel said. "I had never seen that in 30 years."

He had been tested for drugs and the results were negative, but a second sample was tested for PCP, Zipfel said, and that was negative.

It was only because a county mental health worker and a judge were available on a weekend that jail officials were able to transfer him to a mental health ward at another facility.

"It’s because of those relationships that are very unique to this county, that you don’t see anyplace else, that we were able to make that happen," Zipfel said. "If we hadn’t been able to make that happen, that would have cost us more over time."

The rise in opiate use is also having an impact on the jail. More and more inmates are coming in who, if not on opiates at the time, they are addicts, and if any newly incarcerated inmate is high on an opiate, then that creates another burden on correctional officer time.

"The commission has come down and said that now if somebody is under the influence of opiates, they’ve got to go on constant watch until medically cleared, which could take some time," Sheron said. "That’s a new directive that has come up in the last six months."

The subtext of all these issues is that the Sheriff is operating an old jail not designed to house female inmates, or deal with the growing medical, mental health and substance abuse problems present in the current jail population.

A new facility would help increase command and control, officer safety, as well as better meet the medical and mental health needs of inmates, Sheron said.

“Those are the kind of issues that the corrections commission is very forthright (in telling us) that we need to address,” Sheron said.

February 17, 2017 - 12:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news.

County legislators are being asked to approve a $110,000 expenditure to start a feasibility study on the construction of a new county jail.

Both County Manager Jay Gsell and Sheriff William Sheron told members of the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday that the county would be better off getting out in front of the issue instead of waiting for the Corrections Commission to come down hard on the county.

"If we didn’t at least show progress, do a needs assessment, they’re going to pull the variance," Sheron said.

For at least 15 years, the jail has been operating with a variance for the number of beds in the jail, and without it, the county would have to ship some portion of its male prisoner population to other county jails, like they do now with female inmates.

“If we have to start boarding out males at $85 to $90 a day aside from our 11 this week, I believe it was, to 22 females, that starts to push our costs outside the realm of reality," Gsell said.

Legislators asked if the study would take into account the county's ability to pay for a $35 million to $42 million facility, Gsell said the cost issue wouldn't be a factor if the county did nothing and the state forced the county into building a new jail.

"If we don’t do this and let the commission drive us the way they did the last time we had to add seven people into the complement of people (at the jail) because of the posts we have versus what they wanted us to do, then shame on us because, basically, our inability to pay wouldn't really factor into it," Gsell said.

Legislator Shelly Stein asked if the study would look at what services were offered through the jail. In an era of rising addiction rates, she said it was important to her that drug treatment and mental health professionals have better access to inmates.

Gsell said a needs assessment would gather input from all interested members of the community and all of those issues could be brought to the table.

After the meeting, Sheron said the Sheriff's Office is already in the process of working with drug treatment and mental health agencies on creating treatment programs at the jail.

The process would also include discussions on a joint facility with Orleans County, which has already had variances rescinded for its jail, perhaps even bringing Wyoming County into the discussion for a three-county facility.

April 14, 2015 - 2:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, Genesee County Jail.

Press release:

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office recently filled four vacant Correction Officer positions with the hiring of Eric T. Hayes, James M. Smart, Brett J. Peters, and Kevin P. Thomas. 

These four Correction Officers graduated in a class of 19 on Thursday, April 2, 2015, from the Erie County Basic Corrections six-week Academy that was held at the Erie County Training Facility. Speakers at the graduation were Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, Genesee County Sheriff Gary T. Maha and Wyoming County Sheriff Gregory J. Rudolph.  Training at the academy included instruction in the care and custody of inmates, inmate supervision, defensive tactics, firearms training, and other topics pertaining to corrections.

Sheriff Maha stated, “Correction officers Hayes, Smart, Peters and Thomas will be great assets to the Jail Bureau and excelled at the Corrections Academy."

October 30, 2014 - 10:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail.

Deputies spent 8,544 hours on inmate transports in 2013.

Most of those transports involve shuttling female inmates from Genesee County to jails in other counties that can house female prisoners (something the local jail was never designed to do).

Some of those transports involve taking inmates to and from court, and to and from doctor's appointments.

Those 8,544 hours equal more than 1,000 eight-hour shifts, or about 213 weeks of work for a deputy working five, eight-hour shifts a week.

In other words, the Genesee County Sheriff's Office is using the equivalent of four full-time deputies to move prisoners from one location to another.

Rather than spending their time out on road patrol fighting crime and assisting residents, deputies are stuck behind the wheel of a police cruiser driving on roads far from Genesee County.

Not coincidently, Sheriff Gary Maha is planning to request adding four new deputies to the department in 2016.

Members of the Legislature are asking if there isn't a better way.

Options were the topic of discussion during a budget session in the Old Courthouse on Wednesday.

With Undersheriff William Sheron, Jail Superintendent William Zipfel and Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble in attendance, legislators talked about whether it would be best to hire a part-time staff to transport inmates or try to expand teleconferencing for court appearances.

"We're looking for some middle ground where we might be able to get these deputies back to where they belong," said Ray Cinanfrini, chairman of the Legislature.

A few part-timers, who would have the flexibility to meet the demands of unpredictable transport needs, would cost less than hiring new full-time deputies, though no analysis has been done yet on the cost.

Sheron said the part-timers will still need to be sworn police officers, but their duties could be limited to transports.

At a previous meeting, legislators suggested hiring a private security company with bonded guards, but Sheron said the inmates need to remain under the custody of the Sheriff at all times for legal and liability reasons.

In an era of expanding technology, teleconferencing seems to be an option. Thanks to a state grant received two years ago, the jail already has a room set up for teleconferencing.

It's never been used.

Local courts have resisted the teleconferencing option, but Cianfrini said maybe it's time to start pushing local justices and defense attorneys to use the system.

Sheron said it would be helpful if all the local courts ended night court proceedings and scheduled all appearances during the day.

No decisions were made Wednesday.

As the current proposed 2015 county budget stands, property taxes would be reduced from $10.04 per thousand to $9.86.

July 15, 2014 - 4:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Genesee County Jail.

Early this morning, an inmate was discovered hanging by a bed sheet inside his cell at the Genesee County Jail.

The 36-year-old victim was pronounced dead at the scene by Coroner Karen Lang.

The Sheriff's Office is conducting an investigation into the death.

His name is not being released pending notification of relatives.

The inmate was found by a correctional officer at 12:34 a.m.

Attempts to revive the individual were unsuccessful.

City fire and Mercy EMS responded to the emergency. 

An autopsy will be performed by the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office.

The inmate was recently arrested on a felony charge and was being held on bail.

The investigation is continuing.

January 22, 2014 - 3:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail.

With 30 years in the NYS public employee retirement system, Jail Superintendent Ed Minardo has decided maybe it's time take his life in a new direction.

Minardo, who became superintendent in 2011 after six years at the helm of Genesee Justice, is retiring effective March 28.

“Basically, I have my 30 years in with the New York State retirement system and was contemplating the opportunity to do some other things that I have had a long-term interest in with regard to restorative justice issues and also teaching,” Minardo said. “So it just seemed like the right time to do it."

Minardo currently teaches at the College at Brockport and RIT and says teaching is something he could stick to, but he says he’s still exploring future options.

“Where I go from here or what life is going to be like...that’s going to be kind of an unknown,” Minardo said. “I’m not quite sure. I think what I hope to be able to do is try to take a little time when I first retire and kind of get a sense of what I’m interested in doing and then kind of go with my passions where I follow from there.”

“I’m sure I’m going to be very busy doing something,” he said. “I don’t see myself ready for the rocking chair too soon.”

He started his career in the early '80s with the Town of Greece Youth Bureau as a youth referral counselor. He worked at the NYS Department of Corrections for 18 years.

In 2010, Minardo voluntarily gave up his job as director of Genesee Justice to help slash the county's cost of running the program and ensure its continued existence. Genesee Justice hasn't been seriously jeopardized by the budget ax since then.

December 5, 2013 - 10:28am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail.

A 36-year-old Genesee County Jail inmate with a history of heart-related medical issues collapsed in the general housing unit yesterday morning and an hour later was pronounced dead at UMMC.

Wallace E. Urf, of 6262 Telephone Road, Pavilion, fell unconscious at about 7 a.m. Correctional officers responded immediately and began CPR. Urf was transported to UMMC and pronounced dead at 8 a.m.

Urf was incarcerated Nov. 27 on an alleged parole violation.

The NYS Commission of Corrections was notified as required by law and will investigate the cause and circumstances surrounding Urf's death.

There is no sign of foul play, the Sheriff's Office said.

The exact cause of Urf's death is unknown pending an autopsy.

September 20, 2013 - 9:02am
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, Genesee County Jail.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley is in the midst of leading his annual Patriot Trip to Washington, D.C., but he just sent over this statement regarding the unfunded mandate by the NYS Corrections Commission requiring Genesee County to spend another $1 million on jail guards:

I was apprised by Genesee County officials of yet another $1 million unfunded mandate from Albany about a week ago. We are working closely with county officials to remedy this. When will Albany ever get it?

September 19, 2013 - 8:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, michael ranzenhofer.

We requested a statement from Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer about the unelected NYS Corrections Commission requiring Genesee County to add $1 million annually to the county budget to fund 10 more jail guards.

Here's Sen. Ranzenhofer's statement:

I have recently had an opportunity to speak with Genesee County Officials about the Commission’s report concerning the county jail. Our office will be happy to work with the Sheriff’s Office and members of the Genesee County Legislature in the event they believe we can be of assistance to them.

September 16, 2013 - 9:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail.

The NYS Commission on Corrections has found that the Genesee County Jail is understaffed and under a complex formula for staffing is mandating that the county hire 10 more corrections officers.

The 10 officers, including two supervisors, are needed to fill the two new posts the commission says the jail needs to comply with state regulations.

The requirement for the new positions is non-negotiable from the commissions point of view, Sheriff Gary Maha told legislators during the county's Public Service Committee meeting today.

When Legislator Robert Baush asked if the mandate is in response to any problems at the jail, such as guards getting beat up, Maha said, no, nothing like that at all.

It's merely a head count by the commission for the size and configuration of the jail and the number of inmates it holds.

Baush said he didn't understand the state requiring the county to spend nearly $1 million more a year when there's no real problem to solve.

Maha said there's really no higher authority than the commission for the county to go to in order to appeal the decision.

The other option for the county -- which will have to happen eventually anyway -- is build a new jail at a price tag of $31 million. A two-story jail wouldn't need the same level of staffing as the existing older three-story jail, but then a new jail would have space for female inmates, meaning female corrections officers would be needed.

If the county refused to comply, the commission would make the county close portions of the jail and reduce the number of inmates, which would mean shipping some inmates to other facilities at a higher cost to the county.

At the end of the discussion, legislators concluded there is no avoiding the expense of hiring 10 more corrections officers.

"It's not something we can bury our head on," Legislator Ray CIanfrini said. "We've got to do it and it's our job to figure out how to do it."

August 7, 2013 - 6:33pm
posted by Bonnie Marrocco in Genesee County Jail.

Genesee County is experiencing a significant increase in the number of female inmates, and projections indicate that they will need an additional $205,000 to cover 2013 female housing expenses.

The jail averages between 10-15 female inmates every day and more on weekends.

“Five years ago the jail spent $125,000 on female inmates, this year we’re already at almost $300,000,” Sheriff Gary Maha said. “In just that time frame, the equal opportunity to do the crime has just exploded and the circle where we’re able to house the people has just gotten bigger and bigger.”

Since the county jail does not have separate holding areas for male and female inmates, women must be transported to and from jails in neighboring counties. The county is on the hook for the expense of transportation, a deputy's time during transport and paying the other jails to house local inmates.

Numerous officer injuries at the end of 2012 and during 2013 has resulted in increased overtime details to cover for those on leave. So 2013 overtime expenses exceed the original budgeted amount by $15,000.

Genesee County Legislature approved the increase in jail appropriations of $205,000 for female housing and $15,000 for overtime, to be offset by increased revenue from jail prisoner charges, the Genesee County refund of the prior year’s expense and VLT revenue.

March 28, 2013 - 6:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Genesee County Jail.

The story this morning of an inmate who died while in Genesee County Jail custody had a familiar ring to it for a local man who spent four months in the jail back in 2001.

After developing apparent health problems, it took the Batavia resident days to get in to see a nurse, he said, and then she told him he had hemorrhoids and sent him back to his cell.

Days later and after more complaints, she saw him again and gave him suppositories.

After a month of illness and little to no treatment by jail staff, the man said, he collapsed on the jailhouse floor and was taken by ambulance to UMMC.

There, Dr. Bernard Asher found that he had advanced colitis and would soon lose his colon without proper treatment. He was transferred to ECMC for acute hospital care.

The local resident asked that we not use his name to protect his privacy, but he provided us with documentation to support his claim (PDF).

He said he came forward not because he's looking to embarrass anybody at the jail or in the Sheriff's Office, but he just thought people should know what he went through in light of the report on Nikko Gambino's death.

"I'm just saying something like this happened," the man said. "I was diagnosed the wrong way. It wasn't right, but I don't want to get back at them right now."

A year ago, the man spent two weekends in jail on a second-degree harassment charge (he sent a couple of text messages that he shouldn't have sent, he said) and said the same nurse that he saw in 2001 was still working at the jail.

In 2001, the man was jailed on an attempted burglary charge, which stemmed not from a theft case, but because he entered the dwelling of his ex-wife and child without permission, which was a violation of a court order.

"It was a domestic case," he said. "I was young and stupid and chasing love, or what I thought was love."

He eventually spent 20 months in state prison and was on parole for three years.

He said when he saw the Gambino story, he thought, "Man this is crazy and I know what it's like. I'm sure they didn't give him the treatment he needed."

He said he's seen correction officers deny some inmates a chance to see a nurse.

"I'm never a jerk and I understand COs are just doing their jobs," he said. "Other inmates, if a CO had a problem with them, the person wouldn't get to see a nurse.

"I think if you want to see a nurse, you should be able to see a nurse -- to see if you have a problem," he added.

The former inmate said his symptoms during the month prior to his hospitalization included a 40-pound weight loss, severe abdominal pain, blood in his stool and the loss of a lot of blood, yet he was only allowed to see a physician after he collapsed from not eating or drinking and all the pain.

He said if he'd sued back then, maybe he could have saved a life.

"I met with Charlie Mancuso," he said. "We talked about it. He was going to file a suit, but he never did and then he passed away. I never pursued anything (after he passed)."

Sheriff Gary Maha is not familiar with this particular case at this point, but he would look into it if the man would come forward and talk with him. He said everything is documented and he would investigate the complaint if given more information.

We asked Maha if he's received complaints outside of this case and the Gambino case from inmates who say they're not getting proper medical care.

"You always get complaints," Maha said. "They feel they want the best surgeon in the State of New York and the taxpayers are supposed to pay for it. That’s not the case. We give them whatever services are needed and prescribed by the doctor. If you come into the jail and say you need a new pair of glasses, we’re not going to give you a new pair of glasses unless a doctor says you need a new pair of glasses."

Maha said it costs taxpayers about $200,000 a year to provide medical care to inmates at the Genesee County Jail.

"Everyday people come through there who abused drugs or have mental health issues," Maha said. "It’s a difficult population to deal with and it’s a costly population to deal with. It’s something we try to manage as best we can."

Following the Gambino case, Maha said he met with the jail staff and Director Ed Minardo and new procedures and protocols have been developed.

All opiate use and withdrawal cases are monitored now on a daily basis, he said, and all medical procedures have been examined and updated.

He said he is confident in the skill and training of the jail's medical staff.

"They’ve been around a long time and they've been in business a long time," Maha said. "Thye’re a good staff. Again, we have to update the protocols, but they give a lot better care to an inmate in the jail than they would get on the street, I can tell you that."

UPDATE: Looking back over things this morning, I feel I should note that Dr. Asher's note contradicts the recollection of the source in two ways. The health issue was ongoing for two months before Dr. Asher saw the patient, and Dr. Asher notes that the patient additionally received two visits to the ER, which also failed to lead to a diagnosis of colitis.

UPDATE: The source explains, he doesn't think it was a whole two months, but it may have been longer than a month. His two trips to the ER occurred after his mother contacted his primary care physician and the physician requested the visits, he said. He also confirmed he believes he was misdiagnosed at the ER on those two visits.

March 28, 2013 - 11:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Genesee County Jail.

The Genesee County Jail medical staff is being accused of mishandling the medical needs of an inmate going through narcotics withdrawal prior to his death while in custody in July.

Nikko C. Gambino, 42, was originally arrested for impersonating law enforcement officers. He was later accused of smuggling drugs into the jail while on weekend incarcerations.

The NYS Commission of Correction investigated Gambino's death and a report obtained by the Democrat and Chronicle through a FOIL request is critical of jail medical staff.

Specifically, nurses who allegedly missed “florid signs and symptoms of worsening acute withdrawal."

A nurse reportedly refused Gambino his prescribed medication during his weekend incarcerations.

According to the D&C story, Gambino, as a consequence, suffered tremors, sweats, hallucinations and delirium, but nursing staff allegedly failed to recognize the signs of withdrawal and the need for medical attention.

Gambino's family has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the county over his death.

The Batavian requested a statement from Sheriff Gary Maha about the report, but he has been in meetings all morning and has been unable to respond.

UPDATE 2 p.m.:  Here is a statement from Sheriff Gary Maha on the report:

Sorry for the delay in responding. I have been in meetings since early this morning. I really can't comment too much with regard to the Commission of Correction report as a lot of it deals with the medical condition of the inmate. However, we disagree with several portions of the report. It is easy to Monday morning quarterback situations such as this and the Commission is known for criticizing jails and jail staff whenever there is a death in a jail. We do not agree with Commission use of such verbiage as "gross incompetent" and "gross negligence" as they describe the actions of our medical staff. Our medical staff is not incompetent and did not act with gross negligence. This is the Commission's language and is not based upon any determination of fact. Mr. Gambino was a drug user and abuser which also, in my opinion, played a part in his death. The time period from when jail staff saw Mr. Gambino, where he appeared to be okay, to the time he was found unresponsive was only approximately twenty minutes.

We did receive the preliminary report from  the Commission back in December 2012 and shortly thereafter I met with my Jail Superintendent and Medical Staff to discuss the content of the report. We did implement some of the recommendations outlined in the report and are in the process of reviewing and upgrading all of our medical standards.

For previous stories about Gambino, click here.

November 15, 2012 - 7:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, Genesee County Jail.

For 35 years Bob Zehler has enjoyed his work and his coworkers, but the time has come to hang up his badge, he said.

"I'm not quite ready, but now is the time to get out while I still like the place," Zahler said.

Today, in the basement of the jail, coworkers, colleagues and friends gathered for lunch and cake to celebrate Zahler's career.

Many years ago, the Sheriff's Office switched from hiring deputies to work in the jail to hiring corrections officers. Zahler, a supervisor, is the last deputy sheriff to work in the jail.

As for retirement, the Bethany native said he'll spend more time with his 87-year-old mother, complete remodeling his home -- a project he started 20 years ago -- and take care of some neglected work around the family farm.

With Zahler, left in the photo, is the current director of the jail, Ed Minardo.

April 27, 2012 - 11:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, Genesee County Jail.

Press release:

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office recently filled two vacant correction officer positions with the hiring of Michael J. Robinson and Michael E. Glow. These two correction officers graduated in a class of 20 from the Erie County Basic Corrections Academy yesterday, April 26, 2012.

The speakers at the graduation were Erie County Undersheriff Mark Wipperman and Erie County Deputy Executive Richard Tobe. Training at the academy included instruction in the care and custody of inmates, inmate supervision, defensive tactics, firearms training, and other topics pertaining to corrections.

Correction Officer Michael J. Robinson is a 2000 high school regents graduate from Oakfield-Alabama Central School and a 2003 graduate from Genesee Community College with an Applied Associate Degree in Criminal Justice. C.O. Robinson was previously employed as a mental health therapy aide for the New York State Office of Mental Health and as a security guard for Batavia Downs. C.O. Robinson enjoys roller and ice hockey and is Booster Chairman of American Legion Post 626 in Alabama, New York. He is a current resident of Elba.

Correction Officer Michael E. Glow is a 1998 graduate from Batavia High School and a 2002 graduate from Hilbert College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice. C.O. Glow was previously employed as a collector for Admin Recovery, Creditors Interchange, Evans Law & Everest Receivable as well as being a foster care attendant for Genesee County Social Services. C.O. Glow is affiliated with Hometown Hoops for Hope and is a basketball counselor at YMCA’s Camp Hough and at Hilbert College’s basketball camp. He is a current resident of Batavia.

Sheriff Maha stated, “Correction officers Robinson and Glow are great assets to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office Jail Division. They are both very dedicated, hard-working, and responsible employees. We are pleased to have them as part of our team."

April 18, 2012 - 10:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail.

The phone system for the Genesee County Jail is out of service for technical reasons.

Repair crews are on scene.

Emergency contact with the jail can be made through the dispatch center at 343-5000.

November 21, 2011 - 8:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, elba, Oakfield, byron, alexander, Genesee County Jail.

Kurt Hamilton Hawkins Jr., 18, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with assault, 2nd. Hawkins, an inmate at the Genesee County Jail, is accused of assaulting another inmate at 4:26 p.m., Thursday. The alleged victim was treated at ECMC where he was held overnight for observation.

Sandra Louis Chilano, 51, of Dodgeson Road, Alexander, is charged with petit larceny. Chilano is accused of stealing $100 while employed at Alexander Deli as a clerk.

Ryan Christopher Riggi, 16, of Ridge Road, Lyndonville, was arrested on a warrant issued by Batavia City Drug Court. Riggi was jailed on $100,000 bail.

Samual Christopher Dilcher, 28, of Lewiston Road, Oakfield, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Dilcher was arrested following a complaint of harassment at 2:10 a.m., Sunday on Park Road in Batavia.

Samual Christopher Dilcher, 28, of Lewiston Road, Oakfield, is charged with criminal mischief 4th. Dilcher is accused of smashing the driver-side window out of a pickup truck during an argument at a location on Park Road, Batavia. He is is also charged with trespass. Dilcher was allegedly involved in an incident Nov. 20 in the Batavia Downs parking lot. Upon further investigation Deputy Joseph Graff came to believe that Dilcher had been previously banned from Batavia Downs property.

Christopher Jordan Rhodes, 41, of Transit Road, Wyoming, is charged with DWI, aggravated DWI and failure to keep right. Rhodes was stopped at 2:01 a.m., Sunday, on Lewiston Road, Batavia, by Sgt. Brian Frieday.

Zachary Michael Rebert, 20, of South Pearl Street, Oakfield, is charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, 2nd, and harassment, 2nd. Rebert is accused of getting into a domestic dispute with a woman, pushing her several times and then taking her car without her consent. Rebert was jailed on $5,000 bail.

John Edward Bird, 70, of Barrville Road, Elba, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, failure to stop at a stop sign, moving from lane unsafely and driving left of pavement markings. Bird was stopped at 9:43 P.M., Saturday, on Chapel Road, Byron, by Deputy Jason Saile.

November 20, 2011 - 12:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Genesee County Jail.

The widow of a Wyoming County man who died while in custody of the Genesee County jail has filed paperwork that paves the way for a possible lawsuit against Genesee County, the Democrat & Chronicle reported this morning.

A doctor who was treating Nikko Gambino questions whether Gambino -- who changed his name at some point from Robert Goering -- was given safe access to his prescription medication.

"When somebody is incarcerated you have a responsibility to avoid doing things to them that are going to lead to them dying," said (Dr. Thomas) Walters, a physician based in Livonia. "This is a predictable, preventable death."

Whether Walters' belief is true — namely, that negligence contributed to Gambino's death — could be answered by his autopsy. That autopsy, which would include toxicology results, has yet to be finalized, according to a Genesee County coroner.

As is required in all in-custody deaths, the NYS Commission of Corrections is conducting its own investigation into Gambino's death.

Gambino's wife, Holly Gambino, last month filed a notice of intent to sue the county, alleging in court papers that the death was caused "by withdrawal and other illnesses from medications wrongfully and negligently withheld and/or disallowed by the Jail."

Gambino first made the news locally when he was arrested in September 2010 for impersonating federal law enforcement agents.

He was serving an intermittent sentence in July on that conviction when he was arrested for allegedly smuggling drugs into the jail in a body cavity.

The D&C article says some or all of those drugs were his own prescription medication, which he was allegedly not being allowed to lawfully bring into the jail.

County officials were not able to comment on the case because of possible pending litigation.

July 14, 2011 - 10:11am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Sheriff's Office, Genesee County Jail.

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of death of 42-year-old Nikko C. Gambino, an inmate of the Genesee County Jail, who died Friday after being transported to UMMC.

Gambino was reportedly going through withdrawals from drugs and suffered various other medical issues, according to Sheriff Gary Maha.

Medical examiners have yet to determine the cause of death and are conducting an autopsy.

Gambino most recently made news locally after he was caught allegedly smuggling drugs into the jail. In that case, the search warrant was executed at UMMC, where Gambino reportedly had to pass the drugs before they could be recovered.

At the time, the Covington resident was serving an intermittent jail sentence for impersonating a federal law enforcement officer.

In a press release, Maha said Gambino was being closely monitored by corrections officers and medical personnel because of his health issues.

On Friday, at 2:12 p.m., a corrections officer spoke with Gambino who reportedly motioned he was OK. At 2:26 p.m., an officer making his rounds "noticed that Mr. Gambino wasn't doing well," Maha said.

The officer summoned assistance and another corrections officer administered CPR.

Gambino was transported to UMMC by Mercy EMS. He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 3:05 p.m.

As required by regulations, the NYS Commission of Corrections was notified immediately of Gambino's death. The commission will conduct its own investigation, as required by law.

There is no sign of foul play, Maha said.

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