Thomas Diina, Erie County’s acting superintendent of the Jail Management Division since June, was appointed to the permanent post Friday by Sheriff Timothy B. Howard.
Diina, 37, who lives in Buffalo and earned his bachelor’s degree in legal studies at the University at Buffalo, is an 11-year veteran of the Jail Management Division and was one of three finalists recommended by the independent Superintendent Selection Committee to fill the position vacated by Robert A. Koch Jr., who left in June after he admitted to offering false information about vandalism to his county-issued car.
“We have a great team in place in the Jail Management Division,” Diina said Friday about his permanent appointment to a job that will see him head the Erie County Holding Center and Correctional Facility in Alden.
“I look forward to continuing the improvements that have been made in the past several years,” Diina said. “It’s a pretty exciting time.”
Some of those recent improvements, Diina said, include:
• The creation of a reception unit where inmates are screened by health care practitioners upon entering the facility and undergo a “needs assessment” before being placed in the general population.
• A new commissary program that employs “state-of-the-art” technology allows inmates to purchase commissary items and inmates’ loved ones to deposit funds into inmates’ accounts.
• The implementation of an “unprecedented” level of hiring in the division to conform with the State Commission on Corrections staffing mandates for the facilities.
Diina, who before being tapped for the acting superintendent role served as the first deputy superintendent at the Erie County Correctional Facility, said he’s taking a forward-focused approach to managing the division, which has experienced a rough couple of years.
The brouhaha involving Koch was just the latest incident for the division, which also has been under intense scrutiny in recent years by state and federal officials for myriad issues, including alleged staffing delinquencies and prisoner treatment issues, as well as criticism following a number of inmate suicides.
The three improvements outlined by Diina are just a few examples, he said, of how the division is putting its difficulties in the past and keeping an eye toward the future.
Howard also announced two other appointments Friday:
• John Rodriguez was appointed first deputy superintendent of the Jail Management Division at the Erie County Correctional Facility. Rodriguez, a 21-year veteran of the department, fills Diina’s vacated position.
• Paul Evans Sr., an 18-year veteran of the department, was appointed chief of operations at the Holding Center, filling the post vacated by Rodriguez.