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Nassau County Jail has Five Suicides in Two Years – Lawsuit Filed
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On Wednesday, The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a suit in the U.S. Supreme Court against Nassau County Correctional Center in East Meadow, New York over the recent demise of Iraq veteran Bartholomew Ryan. The lawsuit alleges poor oversight on part of the authorities in allowing 5 cases of suicide to occur within past two years. Thirty-two year old Ryan had hung himself in February when he was jailed following a charge for drunk driving.

Cory Stoughton, a senior staff attorney who works for the NYCLU, told the media “We were so dismayed with the sorry state of affairs there, especially with the recent death of an Iraq War veteran, which is a tragedy beyond comprehension.” The NYCLU regularly represents inmates of the correctional center at Nassau.

Stoughton also said, “The problem was so systemic that we started to see these complaints weren’t just instances … they were repeating the same patterns,” referring to the more than 200 recent complaints from inmates about affairs inside the jail.

  
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Inmates complain, among others, include complaints about not getting prescription medicines and also of handicapped inmates having their wheelchairs taken away.

Though the Charter of Nassau County has the provision for a Board of Visitors to evaluate prisoner grievances, for the last 20 years, the seven positions in that board have remained vacant.

However, the general counsel for the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department disputes the issue and says that several other groups like the Jail Advisory Committee, the Sheriff’s Department internal affairs unit, and the Human Rights Commission is there to see if something goes amiss, and that is more than sufficient. The positions in the Board of Visitors are there on the Charter of the County, but actually they can be done without as discovered by sincere administrative research and experimentation over the past 20 years, by never following the County charter.

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The general counsel of the Sheriff’s office said “The department already works with and responds to a number of oversights at this point … It may be that the Board of Visitors was never constituted as it would just create additional, duplicative work and constitute an unwarranted burden on limited county resources.”

The lawsuit, which cited a number of other suicides at the Nassau Correctional Center, does not seek any monetary damages, but requires that Nassau County comply with its charter regarding the board. The petitioners also placed on record the findings of the New York State Commission of Correction which held that several of the suicidal deaths could have been prevented.





 

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