County must appoint jail oversight committee

State Supreme Court justice rules against Nassau


A New York State Supreme Court justice has ordered Nassau County to appoint a seven-member committee to oversee the Nassau County Correctional Center.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed in March 2012 by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which said it had received hundreds of complaints from inmates about poor conditions and treatment at the jail.

“Right now there is really no robust independent oversight of the facility or those that work therein,” said Jason Starr, the director of the Nassau County chapter of the NYCLU.

In 1990, the Nassau County Board of Supervisors passed legislation that created a Board of Visitors oversight committee, with authority to oversee and investigate the NCCC. Justice James McCormack of the State Supreme Court, whose March 24 ruling was made public on April 4, wrote that no county executive, including former Executives Thomas Gulotta and Tom Suozzi as well as current County Executive Ed Mangano, had ever appointed seven members to the board.

According to Starr, the Nassau County Chapter of the NYCLU has been involved with the NCCC since the late 1970s, but began cataloguing complaints it received from inmates in 2011. Inmates have a direct phone line from the jail to the NYCLU office, Starr said, adding that more than 200 inmates have called to register complaints. The complaints, he said, increased when the county hired an outside agency, Armor Correctional Inc., to provide medical care for the inmates.

Starr said that “egregious facility concerns” — namely, rodent infestations and moldy shower facilities — were another complaint. But, he said, it was a spate of suicides between 2010 and 2012 that motivated the NYCLU to file suit. According to the organization, five inmates committed suicide during that time, and the suicide of 32-year-old Bartholomew Ryan, an Iraq war veteran, in February 2012 was the tipping point.

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