I hope these challenging times find you in good health and spirits.
If you need assistance with food, housing, childcare or mental health, please call 211 or visit Monroe County’s COVID resource page.
I am always available to answer your questions by phone or text at 585-210-3246. You can also send an email to [email protected].
The pandemic exposed the need for affordable and reliable broadband internet, as people are working and learning from home.
But many pockets of our district are underserved, in large part because of the expense of the subscriptions and equipment.
I am part of a Monroe County working group that is exploring ways to bridge the digital divide. It’s imperative that our neighbors are able to stay connected, especially during the Covid crisis.
During the months of April, May and June, Councilmember Mary Lupien and Schools Commissioner Beatriz Lebron and I held frequent Zoom sessions to update the community on news related to the Covid crisis.
We got to know a lot about each other’s work, and problems facing our constituents.
We now do sessions about once a month, which are live-streamed on my Facebook page.
Many of you reached out to express concern over the rampant use of fireworks in our district. Fireworks pose a danger to property and can cause injuries. They’re also harmful to pets and neighbors with PTSD.
At my request, the Monroe County Sheriff and Rochester Police departments reviewed the fireworks activity in our neighborhoods. They found that the fireworks we saw and heard are largely illegal in New York State.
I will work with my colleagues in the legislature to make sure we do not have a repeat next summer of extreme fireworks activity.
Last fall, a driver struck and killed a man on Parsells Ave. I called for transparency and accountability in police investigations of pedestrian and cyclist deaths. These tragic incidents must be treated seriously, with care and compassion for victims and loved ones. I hope to work with law enforcement on how to improve communication and investigations regarding these tragedies.
Tour of Monroe County Jail
Capt. Doc McGowan and Ann Kennedy gave me a tour of the Monroe County Jail. I wanted to share with you some observations.
I was impressed with the medically assisted treatment program for inmates addicted to opioids. This forward-thinking and humane program is administered by medical professionals and experts in addiction. I learned that the state prison system does not offer medically assisted treatment, meaning inmates who must transfer from the jail to prison have to first undergo painful detoxification. There are bills in the legislature to require the prison system to offer such treatment.
Next month, Sheriff Todd Baxter will announce a new program focused on making sure inmates can succeed once they are released. The pilot program will be located in a former jail facility on East Henrietta Rd. Inmates will learn life skills and a trade.
The jail has a Veterans Unit. I saw about a dozen inmates in this unit. They wear blue, which sets them apart. They can have access to special services for veterans.
The old part of the jail built in the 1960s, called the Mainframe, is falling apart. There is no air conditioning, which means it can be 100 degrees in the summer. These are conditions that can increase the risk of self-harm. The Mainframe consists of catwalks lined with cage-like cells. There are no doors on these cells, meaning there is no privacy, not even to use the toilet.
There is a $12.5 million plan to replace the Mainframe in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, slated for 2025. The jail has 749 inmates, down from about 1,000 pre-bail reform. The new portion of the jail can house little more than half of the jail population. I hate to see money spent on new jail facilities, but it’s clear the Mainframe is at the end of its useful life.
The women’s unit is in the Mainframe. I was assured women have access to a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion and maternal health care.
Finally, the Sheriff shared the expenditures of the inmate phone call fund. I had requested to see how profits from these calls are spent. While I commend Sheriff Todd Baxter for reducing the cost of inmate calls, I do not believe the department should profit. I am still going through the records, but it’s clear the calls are funding jail operations, including employee travel to conferences and routine maintenance. I’m concerned these expenditures are not part of regular budget.
I was struck by Capt. McGowan and Ms. Kennedy’s deep knowledge of the facility and rules and regulations. I was also struck by their compassion for inmates. I thank Sheriff Baxter for arranging the visit and I look forward to continuing to monitor and assist the work of the department.