Suicides spark lawsuit against jail

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The Board of Visitors legislation, passed in August 1990 by the Nassau County Board of Supervisors, was recommended by the state and a consultant’s jail study “as a remedy to systemic problems in the jail and the sheriff’s failure to adequately handle grievances brought by jail inmates,” according to the suit. The same year, the U.S. Department of Justice investigated NCCC and determined that conditions at the jail “rose to the level of constitutional violations because of deliberate indifference to inmates’ serious medical needs and excessive use of force against inmates.”

The Board of Visitors would include seven unpaid members who would be appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the Legislature, according to its charter. The board would have the power to investigate, review and take action in response to inmate complaints; would have access to the correctional center and its records; would request temporary office space inside the facility; and would make recommendations to the sheriff.

There is currently a Jail Advisory Committee, consisting of Legislator Norma Gonsalves and other East Meadow civic leaders, school officials and Nassau University Medical Center representatives, but only a Board of Visitors would have the power to examine the operations of the jail and inmate complaints, according to the NYCLU. The Jail Advisory Committee, which was formed in 1989, meets with jail representatives about once a month.

“If the facility is not a safe facility,” said Gonsalves, “the community is not safe.” The committee tours the facility about twice a year and addresses its concerns to jail representatives. “We do ask the hard questions,” Gonsalves said, “and if we don’t like the answer, we expect them to find an one for us.”

She added, “I have made sure, as a civic leader and as a legislator, that things should go to the best interest of everybody in the jail. We want to make sure that the inmates are treated in a professional manner and that the correction officers are also treated professionally. Their safety must be a priority.”

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