An officer at the Nassau County Correctional Center sustained a several-inch-long gash in his neck during an altercation with an inmate, according to officials at the East Meadow jail.
The inmate, who is an alleged member of the Bloods gang, was being held in the jail’s mental housing unit. He was in a common area when he became “disruptive,” and an officer responded to escort him back to his cell, Sheriff James Dzurenda said.
When they got back to his cell, the inmate pulled the officer inside and began attacking him. Three other inmates joined in, punching and kicking the officer and another officer who responded to the violence.
The inmate who started the fray then slashed the first officer’s neck with what appeared to be the metal nametag from his uniform, according to Brian Sullivan, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.
After the incident, Dzurenda said, staff “fully secured” the housing area and searched the inmates and cells for weapons or other contraband and found none. The four inmates involved were removed, and an investigation is under way, he said.
COBA President Brian Sullivan called for the inmate who slashed the officer to be charged with attempted murder and the three other inmates to be charged with gang assault.
Sullivan said the slashing was one of many violent altercations that have occurred at the jail in recent months. He called the violence a result of the “dramatic consolidation” of the facility, the “reckless” release of inmates because of the coronavirus pandemic and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bail-re-form measures.
“Sheriff James Dzurenda’s concerted efforts to drastically cut costs at the Nassau Jail facility means that violent inmates, many of whom are gang members, are now artificially crowded into as few housing areas as possible,” Sullivan said in a statement.
This, he added, raises security issues, because it allows the inmates more space to walk around in dormitory settings as opposed to smaller cells.
“Correction officers went from being praised by County Executive Laura Curran for their dedication and performance during our response to Covid-19 and are now being assaulted and slashed all in the name of cost-cutting measures,” Sullivan said.
The mental health housing unit, which now holds 31 inmates, and the rest of the jail are now at 60 percent capacity.
Dzurenda said that Sullivan did not have a “full grasp” of the details of the altercation or budgetary concerns. While the sheriff noted that housing units have been consolidated, he said the assault happened in an area that was unaffected by such changes.
Security positions at the jail have also not been reduced during the consolidation, except for a booth officer who was reassigned because of the reduced number of jail visitors due to the pandemic.
“Our corrections officers have done an outstanding job responding to a difficult situation with the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dzurenda said. “My primary concern is the safety of all staff and inmates within the facility, and the department is conducting a full review of this incident.”