Support Jail Oversight in Onondaga County

Monday, September 8, 2014 - 12:00pm
401 Montgomery St., Rm. 407, Syracuse
Click for map

Honor Chuniece and Raul - Demand Justice in Onondaga County Jails
Monday, September 8 at noon

County Legislature, 401 Montgomery Street., Suite 407, Syracuse

Please join the United as One coalition on Monday, September 8 at noon at the Public Safety Committee meeting of the County Legislature to show your support for a bill that will help ensure no one else will die in a County jail due to neglect or inappropriate procedures. We must tell legislators that we will not tolerate even one more death at the hands of the county law enforcement system. Save the date: we expect the bill to be voted on in the Legislature on Tuesday, October 7 at 1 pm.

Why do we need jail oversight at the Justice Center?
Five years ago, Chuniece Patterson was being held in the County jail, the so-called Justice Center, when she developed pain from an ectopic pregnancy (the embryo implanted in her fallopian tube instead of her uterus). She complained to jail medical staff. They dismissed her complaints as "faking." Chuniece later died after her fallopian tube ruptured. Chuniece's death was completely preventable. She needed only proper medical attention, but didn't get it because the jail personnel on duty decided not to listen to her complaints of pain.

The next year, 2010, saw another death in the Justice Center. Raul Pinet, Jr. was in custody when, according to Bruce Peak’s 2013 article, Justice Center Still Under Scrutiny for Custodial Deaths, “Sheriff’s deputies caused the death by kneeling on his neck and back over his lung cavity and improperly fitting him with a ‘spit mask.’ … The jail guards left Pinet alone for seven minutes before going back in to assess his condition. They didn’t go in sooner because they believed he was ‘faking.’” Raul's death was another preventable tragedy. Twenty years earlier, there were two deaths in the Justice Center mirroring the circumstances of Chuniece's and Raul's cases. In 2010, the community responded by saying, "This pattern of abuse has to stop."

Following Raul's death, the Black and Latino communities came together along with advocacy groups of different stripes from around the city to demand accountability from jail officials under the auspices of a new coalition, United as One. Finally, after four years of working toward this goal, we are proud to announce that a bill will be discussed in the County's Public Safety committee that would create an oversight structure similar to the Citizen Review Board (CRB) that investigates complaints against the Syracuse Police Department. The jail oversight structure, if put in place, will investigate grievances and make recommendations about policies and training. The new body (unlike the CRB) will not be empowered to make disciplinary recommendations regarding individual personnel, but it will be accountable to the community and will be partially comprised of community members. It will be the beginning of accountability for jail personnel, who apparently believe they can overlook the humanity of those held within the facility's walls.

On Monday (Sept. 8) we need a public presence showing the Public Safety committee that the community is still engaged, and we need accountability at the Justice Center. We don't anticipate an opportunity for public comment at this meeting, but we are encouraging anyone concerned about this issue to come with a (respectful) sign making it clear to the Legislature that the public wants jail oversight. We expect the bill to come up for a vote in the Legislature on Tuesday, October 7 at 1 pm. There will be a brief opportunity for public comment at the beginning of that meeting, and signs will be appropriate at that time as well.

Please contact Amelia if you want more information, are planning to come, or if you would like to hold a United as One sign.