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10 jobs to aid staffing at jails

Ten positions will be restored to the Erie County Sheriff's Department to help meet state staffing standards at Erie County's two jails, County Executive Joel A. Giambra said Wednesday.

The action comes after the state Commission on Corrections Tuesday lowered the number of inmates allowed at the county's Holding Center downtown and Correctional Facility in Alden, because of inadequate staffing.

Sheriff Timothy B. Howard warned Giambra this week that it may force the county to transfer inmates to lockups elsewhere around the state at a cost of $100 per day per inmate.

"It is more prudent for us to fill these positions and risk the displeasure of the Legislature than it is to expose taxpayers to even greater potential cost," Giambra wrote Howard.

Howard -- who hadn't seen Giambra's letter as of Wednesday afternoon -- previously asked the County Legislature for 17 sheriff's deputies and correction officers, but welcomed any additional help.

"I know it will be good for the morale of our work force and allow us to reduce overtime," Howard said. "Hopefully this, and other positions that may return, will prevent the Commission on Corrections from further reducing our housing capacity."

The state for years has been granting Erie County variances on the number of inmates allowed at its overcrowded lockups.

But staffing shortages, created during the county's budget crisis, caused the state Commission on Corrections in August to lower the number of inmates allowed at the two facilities to 1,550.

On Tuesday, the commission lowered Erie County's inmate capacity by another 45, said Jessica Scaperotti, a spokeswoman for the commission.

"They do not have the staffing required to support the amount of inmates they have," Scaperotti said.

Inmate numbers in Erie County have been hovering around the state required capacity of 1,505 in recent days, but it was unclear Wednesday if the county would be forced to move inmates elsewhere or whether Giambra's decision to fill 10 vacancies helped alleviate the urgency. Howard said he planned to consult with the proper authorities.

Giambra, meanwhile, also asked Howard to reconsider strategies recommended by various consultants to reduce overcrowding.

"It is imperative that we work together to craft a plan of action," Giambra wrote. "I ask that we work on the broad spectrum of issues, including a full implementation of all possible alternatives to incarceration . . ."

e-email jrey@buffnews.com

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