ALDEN, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Hamburg man incarcerated at the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden on drug-related charges was found by deputies early Tuesday dead from a suicide by hanging.
The suicide comes on the heels of a reprimand by the New York State Commission on Correction over a failure to report certain incidents over the past four years, and a series of changes the sheriff’s office has made in response.
A source close to the investigation told News 4 the man, whose name has not yet been released, hanged himself after having a conversation with a relative. That is part of the ongoing investigation, which was still in its early stages Wednesday.
The man was found in the facility’s shower area, which is “not covered by cameras,” said Scott Zylka, public information officer for the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.
“This is still under investigation. A lot will be researched and will be in the report and will come out at a later time,” Zylka said. “But we do have to respect the family, respect the individual and respect the investigation because this is important to us and to the family to figure out exactly what happened.”
The New York State Commission on Correction issued a series of directives against the sheriff’s office in May.
The directives were sent in response to inmate attempted suicides and violence during the past four years, and the erroneous release of an inmate in April. In addition, the state said it would monitor compliance to the directives with on-site visits and other checks and balances.
The sheriff’s office responded to the directives on June 2 by saying they would:
– Brief command-level staff on the meaning of “life threatening injury” vs “live threatening situation;”
– Review with command-level staff all incidents electronically within 24 hours;
– Provide training for facility watch commanders, and;
“This is sad because we do offer a lot of help to the inmates. We evaluate them. We classify them in proper manners,” Zylka said. “However, sometimes an individual is not reaching out to us. We can help. We help deal with some of their issues, not only mentally, but physically as well. But sometimes there’s just not a clear sign of help, and we believe in this case, there wasn’t that clear sign asking for help.”
Zylka said the county falls far below national averages for suicides.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice reported 50 inmate suicides across the country, per 100,000 inmates. Data for 2014 is the most recently available by the DOJ. By contrast, Zylka said Erie County facilities have seen two deaths since 2014.