It’s been a year since Onondaga County lawmakers approved the creation of a jail oversight committee, which would be an independent commission that would review serious incidents at the Justice Center and make recommendations if necessary. Now that committee members have been approved, the group can begin work in earnest.
Onondaga County’s Human Right’s Commissioner Barrie Gewanter will oversee the group and she hopes it will start meeting soon. She said since the human right’s office reopened last August, it’s been getting calls about the justice center facilities, and conducting intake and investigation. That means after training, Gewanter expects the panel to get down to business.
"Then we’ll be able to present them with investigation materials that I have collected on individual cases," Gewanter said. "And, they will begin to consider what recommendations they want to issue to the sheriff, to the legislature."
Gewanter said one of the things the committee will be looking for is trends at the Justice Center that could lead to suggestions for changes in policy, procedure and or training. She doesn’t expect there will be friction with the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the county’s jail facilities.
“The vision of the Justice Center oversight is to have an outside eye look at situations in a new way and provide recommendations perhaps that the sheriff’s department hadn’t thought of," Gewanter said. "In that respect, it could be seen as a quality improvement opportunity.”
The commission was created after a pair of high profile deaths at the jail spurred a grass roots campaign advocating for official oversight.