From 1998 to 2005, state Sen. Pat Gallivan served as Erie County sheriff.
He too oversaw the Erie County Holding Center, which has experienced 31 inmate deaths since he left office.
"It's a very difficult job. The office of sheriff is very unique in that it touches every aspect of the criminal justice system," said Gallivan, (R) Senate-Elma. "I don't recall how it compares. Any death is sad, of course, but unfortunately, it happens," said Gallivan.
Gallivan says the Center is under the watchful eye of the Department of Justice. A recent report found the facility to be in full compliance with security and correctional health standards, both under the direction of the sheriff.
The Mental Health Division, under the direction of Erie County Mental Health, was found to be in partial compliance and subject to another review in six months.
"And those standards are even more stringent. And while the sheriff might not have the direct oversight of the commissioner of Mental Health, who reports to the county executive, the sheriff still bares the responsibility," said Gallivan.
The Elma lawmaker says the Center is also accredited by the state and its Commission of Corrections.
He says leaders can provide funding, as well as enforce and create laws to keep the facility operate at its highest level.
"The public should be confident that there is oversight of the jail management division and the sheriff’s office. And that they are responding to that, and they're doing a good job," said Gallivan.
Yet protesters and Erie County lawmakers showing signs of frustration with the Holding Center and Sheriff Tim Howard, as many are calling for his resignation.
Howard is also being criticized for not being transparent, and for not reporting the latest inmate death of Robert Ingalsbe following a suicide attempt last Friday.
"Well everybody has a different style. I've always been a believer that the more light you can shine on something the better," said Gallivan. “There were some times I wanted to talk about things but I was restricted. There's reasons that the sheriff is not talking about some things."
Gallivan calls Sheriff Howard a true professional, and an honest, decent human being.
He says he has full faith the sheriff is properly doing the job the way he believes in doing it.
"Some people might object to that, and I certainly understand that if something’s under litigation, if there's an active investigation going on, if there's laws that govern or restrict his ability to release information, I can understand those that want the information, their frustration, but he's hamstrung by the restriction he has on him," said Gallivan.
Gallivan adds because of that, several initiatives and educational programs at the Center often get overlooked.
"Oftentimes we focus on the negative thing that takes place and that kind of blows up and overshadows all the positive," said Gallivan.
The Erie County Sheriff’s Office for the third day in a row did not immediately return a request for comment.