Two high-profile deaths at the Onondaga County Jail in less than five years continue to spark anger. Chuniece Patterson died in 2009 from an ectopic pregnancy while locked up at the jail. Less than a year later, Raul Pinet Jr. died while in custody there, but the fight for justice continues.
Barrie Gewanter of the New York Civil Liberties Union is calling on the public to speak out during public comment periods at the County Legislature.
"The Sheriff continues denying and deflecting the responsibility of the sheriff's dept in the death of Raul Pinet," says Gewanter.
Gewanter and the coalition she helped form, United as One, are demanding an independent group to ensure oversight of the policies and practices at the County Jail. They plan to speak during public comment at every legislative session until changes are made.
The Chairman of the Onondaga County Legislature, Ryan McMahon, says speaking at public comment is not a productive way to enact change.
"I'm not sure what the goal of this speak out is. I'm not sure what these individuals would like to see happen. That's what conversations are for. We're your elected representatives. Come sit down with us. Let's have a conversation," says McMahon.
"The sheriff is unwilling and unable to ensure that his commanders learn from the mistakes and correct the problems that have led to these deaths," says Gewanter.
The Sheriff wouldn't comment due to impending litigation.
Following Tuesday's meeting, the two sides planned to meet privately.
The next legislative session takes place next month.