The United as One Coalition is taking its case for an Onondaga County jail oversight board to county lawmakers. Coalition members want the Onondaga County Legislature to create a board that they say could ultimately save lives.
Coalition spokesman Derek Ford says the idea is to have an independent group watch over the jail in order to protect inmates from instances of brutality or neglect. Ford says there are many potential models for such an organization.
"Ideally there would be an advisory board that would be drawn from the community, but would be under the authority structure of the county legislature, and would be vested with certain powers from the legislature,” said Ford. “Also there's models which state where there’s a committee drawn from county agency staff."
Ford says one of the most important things he'd like to see is a board that could discipline jail employees, and review policies and make recommendations, and one that is independent of the law enforcement community.
This push was prompted by four deaths at the Onondaga County Justice Center in the last five years, most notably the death of Raul Pinet, Jr., who died while being booked at the facility in 2010. A subsequent report by the State Corrections Commission called his death a homicide, but a later Grand Jury report found no cause to file any charges against any of the deputies involved with Pinet the night he died. The coalition has been calling for some kind of jail oversight since Pinet's death.
Ford hopes the coalition can find support from county lawmakers in order to create a board in the next year.