The in East Meadow has been under increased public scrutiny in recent weeks on the tail of its fourth suicide in 12 months, which occurred on Jan. 3.
According to Newsday, Westbury resident Darryl Woody hanged himself at the after being transported from the jail's medical unit. Woody, 44, had been moved to the hospital after slitting his wrists at the jail.
“At this point, I can tell you that the risk management team at NUMC is conducting an investigation,” Medical Center spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said.
In October, Herve Jeannot, 29, of Deer Park, was by jail personnel. The 29-year-old Deer Park resident had just been in Long Beach. Gasparino Godino, who also , was being held at the facility on robbery charges from a Levittown incident. Eamon McGinn killed himself at the jail in January of last year, Newsday said.
“The latest suicide occurred shortly after he was admitted to the jail and he was supposed to be on a watch,” said Samantha Fredrickson, Director of the Nassau County chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It illustrates that inmates are not being watched and screened for mental health problems.”
“We are investigating all of the circumstances regarding these deaths,” New York Commission of Corrections spokesman John Caher said. “Not every suicide is foreseeable or preventable. Our investigation will look into the circumstances surrounding each situation.”
He also stated that there was an investigation launched into each incident within 24 hours of the occurrences to ensure there weren’t any imminent problems at the East Meadow jail. The correctional facility had no reports of suicides from 2006 to 2009.
“For a facility of that size, that good is a good record,” he said.
The facility has had a string of allegations and suits following alleged civil rights abuse. In 1999, according to the New York Times, three correction officers were charged with beating inmate Thomas Pizzutto, 38, one day into his 90-day DWI sentence. His injuries from the assault later proved fatal and the officers were sentenced from six to 11 years after pleading guilty to federal civil rights charges.
From 1999 to 2005, the jail was under close watch by federal authorities after an investigation following this incident. Prior problems with the East Meadow facility included issues with overcrowding, abuse, health and mental care.
“Unfortunately, the suicides illustrate the gravity of this problem--the lack of mental health care that is provided to inmates,” Fredrickson said. “We see these as serious systemic problems; something needs to be done.”
Facing increased public pressure and scrutiny, many are wondering if the Nassau County Correctional Facility does an adequate job providing mental health, as well as other basic rights, to their prison population.
The Nassau Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union has been investigating the jail, specifically the lack of medical and mental health care for the inmates, over the past six months. They have received approximately 40 complaints from inmates about their treatment within the facility.
“It is really a shame that people in the jail are not getting proper treatment and we see it as constitutional violation,” Fredrickson said. “For the past two months we have been trying to set up a meeting with the Sheriff and County Executive because we see this as a serious problem. They have been denying requests.”
Currently, the Nassau Chapter of the NYCLU is in contact with Department of Justice attorneys to come and reinstate a lawsuit at the jail, similar to one filed a few years ago regarding civil and constitutional rights.
Calls to the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Department of Justice did not yield an immediate response.
Caher explained that the state and county are launching a full investigation into the situation, including a review of the documents for arrest, incarceration and previous incarceration health and mental health records. These will be reviewed by a medical board, which compromises a committee of medical professionals. The first of these reports will allegedly be available in March.
"It is time that the jail looks at this seriously and does something about it,” Fredrickson said. “They need to do something about it immediately.”