On Aug. 5, 2009, we stood on the corner of Delaware Avenue and Church Street, in front of the Erie County Holding Center, in protest for the first time. Calling ourselves the Buffalo Prison Abuse Project, about a dozen of us carried signs protesting the jail management’s desire to keep Department of Justice investigators out of the Holding Center.

We stood on that corner, determined to be a voice for the voiceless, chanting: “Prisoners are people, too; it could be me or you!” and “No excuse for prisoner abuse!” Men’s voices from inside thanked us and chanted with us. A brief meeting followed that first standout and we agreed to do it again—and again and again—every Wednesday thereafter, between 5 and 6 p. m. In January, we changed our name to better reflect our mission: Erie County Prisoners’ Rights Coalition.

Through sun, wind, rain and snow — and too many suicides — our core group of about 10 people ballooned to a high of 20 and dwindled to a low of 2. No matter the numbers, we have stood steadfast, determined to keep issues of alleged jailhouse abuse on the front burner. These ugly allegations of abuse are not new. They have been a fact of life for decades.

Current and former detainees say, “I would tell what I know, but who would believe me?” Current and former staff say, “I would tell what I know, but I might lose my job.” Former and current deputies say, “I would tell what I know, but there’s a thin, blue line that I had better not cross.” Fear is a horrifying and crippling thing that has an unquestionable stranglehold on all of them.

Every day I wonder if there will ever be a huge public outcry about the people whose lives have been lost or damaged in our downtown county jail. I wonder, too, if there will ever be a public outcry about taxpayer dollars being spent on lawsuits that could have been avoided if humane and professional service had been rendered.

I have been told that my wondering is naive and pointless. There are people who actually benefit from the ugliness on the inside, so the status quo must be maintained. Every day I wonder if someone will confirm or refute my belief that every suicide was not, in fact, a suicide. Every day I wonder, in my naivete, when someone in power will come forward and say, “Power be damned; I will tell the truth.”

For more than a year, I have been waiting for our ranks on that corner to grow. We stand there every week, believing that we are no different from the detainees on the inside. We understand that any one of us could be on the outside today and confined inside the Erie County Holding Center tomorrow.

This happens more than we want to believe, but it’s a reality that we cannot deny. We cannot separate ourselves from our sisters and brothers on the inside, whom some view as criminals and nothing more. It’s scary for them to think that we are more alike than we are different.

Here we are, 14 months later, still standing and believing that there is some good in everyone, and together we can change things for the better if we would simply acknowledge that everyone is not blessed with privilege and opportunity. There really is no liberty and justice for all.

The status quo is working for some, but the end result is too many haves and way too many have-nots.

So here I am—here we are — still standing.



06/22/2012 08:24

Great post, thank you.

07/02/2012 00:40

Excellent! I admire all the helpful data you've shared in your articles. I'm looking forward for more helpful articles from you. :)

Joseph Aidan

07/12/2012 01:21

Thanks for this superb. I was wondering whether you were preparing of writing similar posts to this 1. .Maintain up the excellent articles!

07/16/2012 02:05

An impressive share, I just with all this onto a colleague who was basically performing a small analysis on this. And then he the truth is bought me breakfast because I ran across it for him.. smile. So allow me to reword that: Thnx for that treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending lots of time to discuss this, I believe strongly about it and enjoy reading significantly more about this topic. If possible, as you grow expertise, would you mind updating your site with an increase of details? It is very perfect for me. Huge thumb up in this writing!

07/16/2012 02:06

Dead written subject matter, Genuinely enjoyed reading via .

07/24/2012 19:31

love it! very interesting topics, I hope the incoming comments and suggestion are equally positive. Thanks for sharing information that is actually helpful.

<a href="http://www.tulleeho.org">allinfouneed</a>

12/04/2013 09:54

Chuck Culhane posted this on Facebook today. Thank you, Chuck....

Dec. 4, 2013.....Today the Chairperson (reverend Eugene Pierce) of the Erie County Community Corrections Advisory Board resigned his post and walked out of our monthly meeting. We fought to get this advisory board up and running several years ago. Our meetings, open to the public on the first Tuesday of each month, have been sparsely attended by the public. Reverend Pierce was once a deputy superintendent at the Alden Correctional Facility; a man of great integrity and wise to the ways of the system. During his tenure, he kept pushing for programs, educational, vocational, and some re-entry mechanisms that would help people leaving jail to remain free. Some small steps have been taken, but if there are no demands by the public or scrutiny by the press, the jail will clunk along with its inertial tendencies and to hell with young lives that could be salvaged. Sad.


Leave a Reply