Innovative and Award Winning Jail Management

Over the past five years, my office has secured funding for jail security improvements and additional staff with my partners at the legislature and the county executive’s office. These improvements allowed my team to re-establish old inmate programs lost in the 2004 Red/Green Budget and create new rehabilitative initiatives.

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The Inmate Horticultural program was a great success, but we were forced to shut it down for a period. This was always a program that I want to start up again when the time was right and 4-years ago we brought life back to this popular effort. Today, selected inmates grow flowers for our county parks, harvest vegetables for the jails’ kitchen and community food kitchens, and create Christmas wreaths for community centers and senior citizens in assisted living.

The Service Action Corps is a community service program for inmates. The inmates help community and not-for-profit organizations clean up neighborhoods, remove debris, and aid municipalities with storm cleanup efforts. All are a great way to give back to the community.

Next, I authorized the creation of two programs that have grown beyond expectations in their first year of existence; the pheasant brooding and the Pups at the Pen programs.

My office partnered with the DEC to raise various breeds of pheasant and release them into the wild to help sustain and grow WNY’s pheasant population. Last year my office released approximately 1,000 pheasants on to public land selected by the DEC and this year we are expected to release nearly 1,600 more pheasants.

The Pups at the Pen initiative was a tremendous success in its first year, and I am already looking to expand the program to include training service dogs and companion dogs for our veterans. As of this month, the Pups at the Pen program has trained 17 dogs and prepared them for adoption through SPCA Serving Erie County.

Inmates have spoken publicly how this is changing their life, helping kick addiction and finding new hope following their release.

These programs and others have resulted in my Jail Management Division receiving multiple awards for innovative management and have gained national attention.



My Responses To The League of Women Voters

I just submitted my responses to the League of Women Voters.  I appreciate the opportunity to be part of their website but there was limited space – here are my complete responses:

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  • How can we deal most effectively with the opioid problem and the need for additional funding to do so?

My office is taking on the heroin and fentanyl dealers head on with added Narcotics Unit Deputies, further collaboration with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, and adding prescription drug drop boxes to eliminate the chance our children get their hands on opiate prescription drugs.  I was also one of the first local agencies to join the Erie County Opiate Task Force and provide “Angels” to help individuals break away from their addiction.

  • How will you improve conditions at the Erie County Holding Center?

Recently, my Jail Management Division received the NYS Sheriff’s Association Corrections Division Accreditation.  The independent assessment team reviewed 166 exacting standards, and the EC jails passed them all – only half of the counties in NY have accreditation.  In January, with the recommendation from USDOJ oversight team medical professionals, the Division of Correctional Health was transferred to my office for the first time – ever.  My office was the first to implement Crisis Intervention Training for correctional facilities outside of NYC.  This innovative initiative trains jail personnel to deal with inmates suffering mental illness and encourages them to be proactive in getting them proper care.  I have also implemented a substance abuse transition program to help the growing number of inmates with addictions leave the jail clean and community counseling. Last but not least, I am helping incarcerated veterans get access to the services they earned fighting for our country.

  • What is the most important issue facing Erie County in the next two years and why is it the most important issue?

The opioid epidemic continues to spread to every part of our community and kills at least one person per day.  As this epidemic spreads, its grip is forcing municipalities and law enforcement agencies to reallocate funds to save people’s lives.  Whether it is shifting money to purchase Narcan for first responders or redeploying Deputies to respond to overdose calls, this plague is costing the taxpayer more money which could be utilized for other resources.  That is why I have enlarged the Narcotic Unit and work closely with other law enforcement agency, like the DEA, to arrest the “one-stop-dealer” selling the poison that is killing our family members.

  • How would you improve the Erie County Sheriff’s department’s culture and training to foster a more collaborative relationship with the community?

Since taking office, I have initiated numerous partnerships to fight crime and provide community services.  I am proud of my efforts to fund and to be part of the Local Conditional Release Commission which helps inmates transition back into society.  I am working with the health department to rid our homes of unwanted prescription opioids and keeping our water supply clean.  My office continues to be strong partners with community organizations like WNY United to educate our children about the deadly consequences of illegal drugs, underage drinking, driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.  I will continue to collaborate with any organization that helps keep our community safe and fights crime.

We Can’t Arrest Our Way Out of This Epidemic

Everyone in our community is aware of the opioid epidemic that is gripping our community, and we may be in one of the worst periods during my nearly 50 years in law enforcement. Our way out of this is not through arrests alone, rather compassionate enforcement.  As a law enforcement professional, I have to charge someone with illegal drugs, but my job doesn’t stop there, that’s why I implemented many programs and services to help individuals battling addiction.

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In 2013, I was one of the first law enforcement leaders to set up a community program to safely get rid of prescription and over-the-counter-drugs with my prescription drug drop boxes.  These kiosks provide you a safe and secure way to dispose of unwanted and unused medications and prevent these drugs from getting into the hands of a curious teen or a family member who has become addicted to painkillers.  Today, my office has collected and destroyed nearly 15-tons of unwanted drugs.

I have ordered my Deputies to carry Narcan and trained them to identify the signs of an overdose and act quickly.  But this life-saving opiate antidote does only half the job, and that’s why the Erie County Sheriff’s Office was one of the first agencies to participate in the Erie County Opiate Task Force and establish safe and welcoming policies at my substations for people searching for help to kick their addiction by starting an Angel Program.  Deputies will support the person’s decision to stop using and provide assistance to find treatment.

And for the incidents where an addict finds themselves in a county jail, I have set up a first of a kind opiate discharge planner to aid with an individual’s transition from jail to a community-based health provider to continue their path to sobriety.  Also, I am finalizing plans for a partnership with an organization to provide Vivitrol to addicts in the jail.  This revolutionary drug blocks the high from opioids and steers the person down the path of recovery.

I am taking action to battle the opioid epidemic while, at the same, time, help our friends, our neighbors, and our family members with their addiction.

A Message from Sheriff Tim Howard

January 31, 2013 – Our state already had some of the toughest gun laws in the nation and with the stroke of a pen our State Legislature and Governor made them even more restrictive last month, all in the name of making us safer. I don’t believe for one minute that Governor Cuomo did this to protect us; rather he rammed this bill through for his own personal agenda, so he could be the first out of the gate to thump his chest and say how restrictive gun laws are in New York , thus beating President Obama to the punch.

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It is no secret Andrew Cuomo wants to be a presidential candidate in 2016. He took a very emotional event in our nation (the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut) and the unrelated murders of two first responders in Webster, NY and wrapped his constricting gun legislation around them like a bow, hand delivering it to the NYS legislature in a sweeping package that, in my opinion, infringes on every American’s constitutional right to bear arms.

We as citizens never even had an opportunity to respond to the proposed bill with our input; even law enforcement wasn’t consulted on this. In my opinion, this new law is proof of what gun rights people have been saying all along – that registration is a precursor to confiscation. We have landed on a slippery slope allowing the government to start tinkering with our second amendment rights – what comes next?

Let’s point the finger where it belongs – on mental health. Not one of these new restrictions would or could have stopped the massacre at that elementary school or in Webster, NY. The common denominator in these shootings has been a mentally disturbed person. The government should look to making it easier for people to access mental health services. (If anybody has a family member who suffers from mental illness – you know how hard it is to get good competent help).

Let’s pass responsible laws regarding mental health issues. Give police the right to know about any resident with a mental health history that constitutes a danger to an individual or community, especially those that must remain on medications to maintain their mental health. Different mental illnesses call for different response by police. Resume civil confinement of persons with mental illnesses that constitute a danger to a community (Police in Webster, NY did not know the history of the perpetrator who had earlier killed his grandmother with a hammer). Wasn’t it then-Governor Mario Cuomo (Governor Andrew Cuomo’s father) who closed psychiatric centers and turned them into prisons – which the state is now closing due to declining population caused by faulty parole and probation policies?

The “pen is mightier than the sword” is an old adage. But in this case it (the pen) is mightier than guns, because thanks to our Governor, he has restricted even more law abiding citizens’ rights to bear arms by a mere stroke of his pen.

Listen to the Sheriff’s remarks on WBEN Radio.