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Nassau County Prison Suicides

Police & Fire, Government

Suicides at Jail Cause Concern and Prompt Review

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Nassau University Medical Center
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Four incidents within the past year stir questions and civil rights concerns about inmate treatment at the facility.

The Nassau County Correctional Facility 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 Nassau University Medical Center 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 found hanging by a bed sheet in his cell by jail personnel. The 29-year-old Deer Park resident had just been re-convicted of a 2004 murder in Long Beach. Gasparino Godino, who also committed suicide in October, 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.”

What are your thoughts about the increasing amount of suicides at the jail? Tell us in the comments.

Nassau jail suicide called 'preventable'

An aerial view of the Nassau County Jail

Photo credit: Kevin P Coughlin | An aerial view of the Nassau County Jail on Carman Avenue in East Meadow. (Nov. 3, 2010)

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A 32-year-old Brooklyn man's 2010 suicide in the Nassau County jail was "preventable," said the state authority that investigated his death, citing lapses in his care by medical professionals.

The state Commission of Correction also faulted jail personnel for improperly altering or inputting entries in a log book that records officers' actions during shifts and using an outdated screening form to assess Eamon McGinn's drug use and suicidal risk.

"The Medical Review Board deems this to have been a preventable death with inadequate provision of medical and mental health care," said the commission's report, released Thursday.

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McGinn's Jan. 3, 2010 death, stems from a lack of proper medical attention, the report said, prompting investigators to recommend tightening medical procedures such as adopting a treatment regimen for opiates and alcohol withdrawal.

Officials at the Nassau University Medical Center, which provides medical and mental health care in the jail, said the commission's reading of the facts is fair and that they have already corrected problems. "We found in our internal review that there were some deficiencies and processes that needed improvements, but not necessarily a cause and effect," said spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg.

The hospital, which recently lost its contract with the jail, told commission staff that it had implemented changes, including re-educating staff on procedures when people are admitted to the jail, revising referral forms and using new treatment protocols.

Jail Capt. Mike Golio said the log book errors were clerical and had nothing to do with McGinn's suicide. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Loconsolo cited the fact that the commission did not cite officers' actions as contributing to the death.

McGinn's family could not be reached for comment but Samantha Fredrickson, director of the Nassau chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the findings were disturbing.

"We've become increasingly concerned that the medical and mental health care is not living up to constitutional standards and this report is really evidence of that," she said.

McGinn, who was struggling with drug abuse problems while being detained at the East Meadow facility on burglary, forgery and petty larceny charges, was the first of four Nassau inmates to hang themselves between January 2010 and January 2011.

The results of the investigation into McGinn's suicide come as the jail endures increasing scrutiny by the commission, which has urged jail officials to comply with state regulations.

The commission's report gave this account of the events leading to McGinn's death:

McGinn turned himself in to Glen Cove police on Dec. 31, 2009, a day after he had kicked in the door of his mother-in-law's home, stole three checks from a dresser drawer and forged one for $350. When he was arrested, he admitted to using OxyContin and cocaine at the time of the burglary.

He was arraigned Jan. 1, 2010, and held on $5,000 bond, brought to the jail and assigned to new-inmate housing. When he arrived at the jail, McGinn said he used drugs but he was assessed at low risk for suicide.

But on Jan. 3, at 6 p.m., he asked a correction officer what time inmates would be let out of their cells. Fifteen minutes later, the officer discovered McGinn hanging by a bed sheet looped around the bars of his cell.

 

 

Four suicides in one year

 

January 2011: Darryl Woody, 44, of Westbury. He hanged himself despite being on suicide watch. Days before the hanging the depressed schizophrenic had slit his wrists in the jail following his arrest on Christmas Eve on domestic violence charges.

Late October 2010: Herve Jeannot, 29, of Deer Park. Tied bedsheets into a noose and slipped it around his neck hours after he was found guilty of first-degree murder.

Early October 2010: Gasparino Godino, 31, of Bethpage. Used bedsheet to hang himself within a day of being jailed on robbery and drug charges.

January 2010: Eamon McGinn, 32, of Brooklyn, hanged himself with a sheet in the jail after being incarcerated on a burglary charge.

-- MATTHEW CHAYES

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Photo credit: Kevin P Coughlin | An aerial view of the Nassau County Jail on Carman Avenue in East Meadow. (Nov. 3, 2010)

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A 32-year-old Brooklyn man's 2010 suicide in the Nassau County jail was "preventable," said the state authority that investigated his death, citing lapses in his care by medical professionals.

The state Commission of Correction also faulted jail personnel for improperly altering or inputting entries in a log book that records officers' actions during shifts and using an outdated screening form to assess Eamon McGinn's drug use and suicidal risk.

"The Medical Review Board deems this to have been a preventable death with inadequate provision of medical and mental health care," said the commission's report, released Thursday.

PHOTOS: LI mug shotsAlleged crimes caught on tape | LI's most notorious crimes

ALERTS: Sign up to receive crime reports from your area

McGinn's Jan. 3, 2010 death, stems from a lack of proper medical attention, the report said, prompting investigators to recommend tightening medical procedures such as adopting a treatment regimen for opiates and alcohol withdrawal.

Officials at the Nassau University Medical Center, which provides medical and mental health care in the jail, said the commission's reading of the facts is fair and that they have already corrected problems. "We found in our internal review that there were some deficiencies and processes that needed improvements, but not necessarily a cause and effect," said spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg.

The hospital, which recently lost its contract with the jail, told commission staff that it had implemented changes, including re-educating staff on procedures when people are admitted to the jail, revising referral forms and using new treatment protocols.

Jail Capt. Mike Golio said the log book errors were clerical and had nothing to do with McGinn's suicide. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Loconsolo cited the fact that the commission did not cite officers' actions as contributing to the death.

McGinn's family could not be reached for comment but Samantha Fredrickson, director of the Nassau chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the findings were disturbing.

"We've become increasingly concerned that the medical and mental health care is not living up to constitutional standards and this report is really evidence of that," she said.

McGinn, who was struggling with drug abuse problems while being detained at the East Meadow facility on burglary, forgery and petty larceny charges, was the first of four Nassau inmates to hang themselves between January 2010 and January 2011.

The results of the investigation into McGinn's suicide come as the jail endures increasing scrutiny by the commission, which has urged jail officials to comply with state regulations.

The commission's report gave this account of the events leading to McGinn's death:

McGinn turned himself in to Glen Cove police on Dec. 31, 2009, a day after he had kicked in the door of his mother-in-law's home, stole three checks from a dresser drawer and forged one for $350. When he was arrested, he admitted to using OxyContin and cocaine at the time of the burglary.

He was arraigned Jan. 1, 2010, and held on $5,000 bond, brought to the jail and assigned to new-inmate housing. When he arrived at the jail, McGinn said he used drugs but he was assessed at low risk for suicide.

But on Jan. 3, at 6 p.m., he asked a correction officer what time inmates would be let out of their cells. Fifteen minutes later, the officer discovered McGinn hanging by a bed sheet looped around the bars of his cell.

 

Four suicides in one year

 

January 2011: Darryl Woody, 44, of Westbury. He hanged himself despite being on suicide watch. Days before the hanging the depressed schizophrenic had slit his wrists in the jail following his arrest on Christmas Eve on domestic violence charges.

Late October 2010: Herve Jeannot, 29, of Deer Park. Tied bedsheets into a noose and slipped it around his neck hours after he was found guilty of first-degree murder.

Early October 2010: Gasparino Godino, 31, of Bethpage. Used bedsheet to hang himself within a day of being jailed on robbery and drug charges.

January 2010: Eamon McGinn, 32, of Brooklyn, hanged himself with a sheet in the jail after being incarcerated on a burglary charge.

-- MATTHEW CHAYES

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