Programs aimed at helping inmates at the Erie County Holding Center and Alden Correctional Facility re-enter civilian life are being restored or enhanced after a county budget crisis forced cuts, according to Thomas Diina, superintendent of the county’s Jail Management Division.
Diina his week told members of the Community Corrections Advisory Board that the horticultural program at the Correctional Facility will resume operation after being shut down following the county’s fiscal meltdown nearly a decade ago. The program had been popular with inmates for years, having served many purposes, including supplying hay to the Buffalo Zoo and helping inmates gain skills for future employment opportunities after serving their terms.
Diina said prior attempts to restore the program became problematic because the state Commission on Corrections had concerns about the program’s three greenhouses being located outside the perimeter of the correctional facility while under the supervision of civilian staff.
Having the horticultural program run by volunteers is crucial for keeping down expenses, Diina said, so security fencing is being installed around the greenhouses so that they exist within a secure perimeter. In addition, he said, an atrium adjacent to the library at the correctional facility is being converted into a farm, as a means to expand the horticultural program.
Back in June, two members of the Corrections Advisory Board shared their findings about re-entry programs offered by Monroe County after a tour of its correctional facility. Among the most successful was a six-week course in horticulture for inmates at the Monroe Correctional Facility.
Erie County’s advisory board members suggested that the county seek to replicate some of those programs.
Last month, Sheriff Timothy B. Howard unveiled a new housing unit at the Holding Center catering specifically to incarcerated veterans. The new wing is believed to be the first of its kind in the state aimed at addressing the special needs of incarcerated veterans, while allowing both the Veterans Court and the Veterans Administration to better serve their needs.
“The only thing it cost us was paint,” Diina said.