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Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 9:45 am

Inmate transports essentially tie up four full-time deputies, so legislators exploring options

post 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.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Inmate at county jail found hanging by bed sheet, pronounced dead at the scene

post 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.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Genesee County Jail superintendent retiring at the end of March

post 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.

Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 10:28 am

Sheriff's Office announces death of jail inmate

post 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.

Friday, September 20, 2013 at 8:02 am

Hawley issues statement on unfunded mandate for additional jail guards

post by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, steve hawley

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?

Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 7:54 am

Ranzenhofer's statement on the state mandating $1 million in new county expense at jail

post 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.

Monday, September 16, 2013 at 8:48 pm

State mandating another $1 million in county expense to run jail

post 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."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 5:33 pm

More women doing crime means big jump in jail expense for county

post 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.

Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Former inmate recalls his own medical emergency while confined in Genesee County Jail

post 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.

Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 10:46 am

State report critical of jail nursing staff in death of inmate

post 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.

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