Vigil brings attention to inmate deaths in Broome County Jail

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - A local activist group is arguing that a stay in the Broome County Jail should not become a death sentence.

Justice and Unity in the Southern Tier (JUST) is holding a vigil Saturday to bring attention to the number of deaths that have occurred within the Public Safety Facility in recent years.

According to the New York State Commission of Correction, seven inmates have died while in custody of the Broome County Sheriff's Office dating back to July 2011.

That's when Alvin Rios died from complications from drug withdrawal.

A COC investigation placed some blame on the jail's third-party medical provider, Correctional Medical Care, for Rios's death.

Activists also allege negligence in the death of Salladin Barton in 2015.

Andrew Pragacz of JUST says there is not adequate medical care and oversight in the jail.

"That is a theme we've heard over and over again by people who have survived the experience. People who have been injured in the jail in some way, haven't been able to get their medication. People in the jail are not allowed to have the medication they are prescribed on the outside," he said.

JUST is calling for the jail to replace CMC with its own local medical unit as well as set up an outside citizen review board for the facility, among other demands.

Broome County Sheriff Dave Harder says JUST doesn't know what it's talking about.

While he acknowledges some procedures needed altering after the Rios death, he says inmates die in jail for a variety of reasons including natural causes and suicide.

"We're well-staffed with good medical people. It's just the problems they come in with nowadays. Don't forget, Governor Cuomo has closed everything up. He's done away with the addiction centers, he's done away with the mental health programs. And what's that leave us? The people that get out and get in trouble and end up in the jail," said Harder.

Harder does agree with JUST that the jail houses too many inmates who are awaiting trial, as many as 70 percent of the inmates haven't been convicted.

JUST is planning its vigil for 2 p.m. Saturday outside of the Broome County Office Building in downtown Binghamton.


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