The following is a press statement we released July 18/ 19th in response to India Cummings’ death being ruled a homicide due to medical neglect at the Erie County Holding Center. Reader, you should know that the report and the Buffalo News article are graphic.
The report from the Commission of Corrections’ Medical Review Board released Monday declaring India Cummings’ death a homicide is devastating and further enforces that Sheriff Howard and his administration should not be in charge of the Holding Center or the County Jail. Since Howard became Sheriff in 2005 there have been 24 deaths in the facilities he is charged with. The Medical Review Board’s Report, as well as testimony from inmates, prove a culture of neglect, mishandling, incompetence, aggressive force and overall disregard for the lives of those held at the Holding Center and the County Jail. Erie County needs a new Sheriff and need to enact policies and practices that protect inmates and meets their needs.
It is devastating to read about the conditions India Cummings was in; like sitting in her own urine and feces, before she was allowed medical attention, that was ultimately too late. India was obviously suffering and instead of attention, care and treatment she accrued more charges for her “behavior”. Marielle Smith, a Black Love Resists // Just Resisting member who has been vocal about Buffalo’s policing problem, thinks that “blaming a ‘mental health crisis’ negates the fact that poor Black and Brown folks are being actively attacked by the police state that refuses to value us and see us as human beings deserving of any type of protection or care.
Black Love Resists insists on a new administration in charge of the Holding Center and the County Jail- Sheriff Howard needs to go. Additionally, we need a serious allocation of resources and services at the county and city level- law enforcement should never be the first responders to a mental health crisis and housing individuals in penal facilities should never be the procedure. Dollars allocated to providing much needed services are severely low. It is time for Erie County to implement a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program and shift their budget’s priorities so that individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, like India, would be placed into harm reduction treatment programs whose goals are to treat and care for the whole person instead of charging them with a crime.
It is obvious India was not receiving the care and medical attention she needed and deserved and that she was penalized for suffering the way she was. Howard and his administration are responsible for the death of India Cummings as well as 23 others, and conditions at the Holding Center and the County Jail; we need better conditions and services that meet our needs, incarceration is not a solution.