Click here to go to the Home Page Suicides or Murders? What's behind the Deaths at Buffalo's Jails? - Point Blank By Chris Stevenson, BC Columnist

Click to go to a Printer Friendly version of this article


It's common for many whites to equate locked up with "guilty," it's just that those who do shouldn't be given oversight of a county lock-up. Yet this is what seems to be going on in Buffalo NY regarding their Sheriff Tim Howard. There are those who question whether or not he can distinguish between County Jail and State Penitentiary. New York State no longer has a death penalty, but it seems to have found a suitable replacement in the open arms of Howard's jails.

As of just last Thursday (5/18) they mistakenly released a third inmate, confusing a man named Paris Williams (an alleged car thief) with James Williams (Trespassing) whom was actually the one scheduled for release. Considering their mistaken release of a sexual offender-Rasheed Milton-who allegedly raped a woman during the short time he was out, one wonders if the jail is run by a bunch of jerk-offs? Sadly errantly-freed inmates and other hijinks are the least of Erie County Holding Center's problems, there have been at least 13 inmates who died in their custody who's families probably wished had escaped. They were all just coincidentally ruled suicides; Eden Baez, Patrick Chadwick, Lester J. Foster, Joanne Jesse, Christian Johns, Keith John, Jeremy Kiekbush, John Marinaccio, Adam Murr, Michael Scioli, Rakim Scriven, Carmelo Torres, Trevell Walker.

It all starts with a culture of insensitivity that begins with opinions on how people should be treated while locked up, mix in some US-intelligence-style psychological warfare, and you got death. In spite of these highly suspect losses of life, I have learned more from some who "attempted suicide" than from those already ruled as such. Martha Mitchel for example lives a half-hour away in Batavia but she was arrested here and is on record as attempting suicide on 1/21/10. Robert A. Crowley was alleged to have attempted suicide and his family wasn't notified for two days. Some time ago deputies were filmed beating inmate Marquez Mack. Crowley is considered bipolar (ECHC says 10-12% of their inmates are mentally ill). My question here is which party shows real evidence of brain-damage, the inmates or the overseers?

This brings me back to the subject of Howard, he spins reform into a language that only blue-collar-white Buffalo can sympathize with. And then there's another head case named Cheryl Green formerly of the Erie County Attorney's Office under former county executive Chris Collins. She is well-known for having blocked a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into the deaths a few years ago. She opposed the formation of a citizen's watchdog group to investigate ECHC, only to request to be on that same board she so passionately opposed back on 11/19/10; the day the Citizen's Panel for Jail Oversight was created (Solely for the purpose that she can oppose their ideas. Buffalo is full of blockers). In the fall of '09 the DOJ filed suit against the facility based on it's 50-page report. Howard had enough temerity to say the DOJ actions were an abuse of power. I can't make this stuff up, he has lots of quotes revolving around his theme of the DOJ and activists "wants Erie County to provide prisoners the equivalent of a hotel room." His link of prisoner to hotel room is a game he runs on the local big media and taxpayers that works like a charm.

Buffalo needs a Sheriff Howard like it needs another blizzard. It already ranks high on most polls relating to bad economy, racism, and education. Just recently I was emailed a list of the "Ten Worst Cities in America for Black Men Not Working; No Local of National Plan to Change This-Percentage of employed, working-age (16-64) black males in these cities:" Can you guess where Buffalo ranks? Number two (2) right behind Detroit (Milwaukee and Cleveland follow respectively).

Jails of course are generally far from underfunded. Just the mere suggestion of the phrase "new jail" automatically trains into a flood of dollars with little-or-no legislative opposition (Unlike a downtown football stadium) in poor economic areas like Buffalo. Would it make sense to ask if jail suicides affect or attract government funding? The Buffalo News article by Matthew Spina mentioned a finding by a National Commission on Correctional Healthcare that says ECHC offers too many ways for inmates to hang themselves (or be hanged, my words). Karima Amin was on that same Citizen's Panel as Green and is the founder of Prisoners Are People Too (PRP2), I was able to be at one of their board meetings a few weeks back where they too voted overwhelmingly for the new position of Ombudsman (and to pay for it using "community funds.") to advocate for the safety of the inmates.

If you think that I am somehow implying that I suspect murder in at least some of these cases then you are correct. It is impossible for so many people, mostly from between 2003 to 2012 to suddenly feel suicidal at a rate that exceeds Rikers Island, LA County, and Chicago's Cook County Jails and State Prisons. Unless there is something paranormal going on, murder is the only answer. Amin and Aminah (Johnson) of Push Buffalo are my latest guests on my talk show dealing with ECHC; "Policy & Prejudice." Johnson's son was an inmate there.

In Max and Supermax prisons, death rows are at least official whether you agree with it or not. The convict learns he's going to be there when the verdict is read or at the sentencing. The deaths here are not a product full-blown out of nothing, when you stop nonsense you stop policy. Columnist Chris Stevenson is a syndicated columnist, his articles also appear on his blog; the Buffalo Bullet. Follow him on Twitter @pointblank009) and Facebook (pointblank009). Support his petition to permanently Abolish the Death Penalty in the US the Troy Davis Bill, HR92111. Click here to contact Mr. Stevenson.

Click here to go to a menu of the Contents of this Issue

e-Mail re-print notice
If you send us an emaill message we may publish all or part of it, unless you tell us it is not for publication. You may also request that we withhold your name.

Thank you very much for your readership.

May 24, 2012 - Issue 473
is published every Thursday
Est. April 5, 2002
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble
Road Scholar - the world leader in educational travel for adults. Top ten travel destinations for African-Americans. Fascinating history, welcoming locals, astounding sights, hidden gems, mouth-watering food or all of the above - our list of the world’s top ten "must-see" learning destinations for African-Americans has a little something for everyone.