Whether it was a case of miscommunication, misunderstanding or misplacement, the idea that an inmate could be held in the Erie County Holding Center for more than two years without charges, without anyone taking notice, is yet another example of a mismanaged jail.
Whatever systems that need to be put in place to make sure that an incident like this, or the many others before, does not occur again must be fast-tracked. Federal inquiries about an inmate's whereabouts should have raised a red flag, but they didn't.
Edward Veira is a hardened criminal who has spent his adult life in prison. He was supposed to be deported back to his native Caribbean island of St. Vincent. That would move him out of the American penal system and, importantly, out of the pockets of local taxpayers who, because of this blunder, probably paid $100 a day, or more -- $85,000 for the two-year, four-month stay.
Now, the Holding Center isn't exactly the Ritz. But, come on. Didn't anyone notice? Besides a few jail deputies talking among themselves and wondering aloud about Veira's status?
Apparently, not. At least, not the jail insiders who never had an answer for the federal unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement as to whether agents could pick Veira up and ship him out of the country, as ordered by a judge.
He sat and we paid. That is, until July 27 when the error was finally realized.
Veira's case is hardly the first real problem caused by mishandled paperwork at either the Holding Center in downtown Buffalo or the County Correctional Facility in Alden.
Last year, Dion T. Roberts, then 29, was arrested as Deyon T. Roberts. The parole document informing the Holding Center personnel to keep him in custody had used the name Dion Roberts, and despite numbers on the document indicating Dion and Deyon were the same person, the warrant was never linked to the inmate and he was mistakenly released on bail before being taken again into custody by sheriff's deputies.
A couple of other incidents last year also illustrate the point, such as when Amherst police acknowledged they did not tell Holding Center personnel that Jeremy Kiekbush, 29, was a clear suicide risk because there is no system for passing along the information. After attempting "suicide by cop" days earlier, Kiekbush was found hanging from a bedsheet.
And Rasheed I. Milton was mistakenly released from the Alden facility, even though U.S. marshals delivered a detainer days earlier telling the Sheriff's Office to continue holding him because he had pleaded guilty to federal drug charges. While free, he was accused and subsequently convicted in the knifepoint rape of an 18-year-old woman. The sheriff blamed a clerk for failing to input information from the detainer into Milton's computerized records and instead placed the detainer in his paper folder. The clerk was suspended for three days without pay.
The Sheriff's Office has reportedly advocated for a computerized court network that would allow court documents, detainers, warrants, etc., to be sent electronically to the Holding Center. That would be a start.
It's been a long time since Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, the official who runs for office on claims that he's a good manager, has spoken publicly about the Holding Center.
What does he think would have solved this problem? And what will he do to fix it?