Nassau Jail Suicide
by Peter Kohler
When you see the photo of Bart Ryan in his Marine uniform, you have
to wonder how someone with all his psychological and drug problems could have been placed in a cell without being watched.
Last week, the Iraq veteran became the fifth suicide at Nassau’s jail in two years.
Sheriff Michael Sposato
says Ryan did receive psychological evaluation. But was he put under observation? Not according to his brother. “They
left him alone,” said Tom Ryan. “He wasn’t even there for 24 hours.”
While you can’t
blame the jail for Ryan’s desperate act, could his death have been prevented?
That’s the question the state
Commission of Correction asked when it investigated the suicide of Darryl Woody at the jail last year, noting: “Woody’s
death may have been prevented but for the grossly inadequate psychiatric care provided him in the jail and hospital…”
And now you have to
ask: Why won’t county legislators quiz the Sheriff about what he is dong to prevent suicides? And why hasn’t County
Executive Ed Mangano appointed members to a watchdog agency that’s supposed to look over the jail, an agency established
by the county charter?
Nassau’s jail needs a real watchdog–not something that exists only on paper.
Restoring Oversight at the Nassau Jail PROBLEM: - The Nassau Jail houses 2,000
people. It is a pre-trial detention center; meaning many of the inmates there are awaiting trial and are innocent. - The jail has a history of providing inadequate medical and mental health care. In 1999, the federal
government opened an investigation of the jail and after a lawsuit, the jail was required to fix their medical care. In 2008,
the government announced the jail was in compliance. -
But, in years since, the jail has had many, many more
problems. - Five people have died at the Nassau Jail since 2010. Four suicides occurred between January 2010 and January 2011 – more suicides
than any other county jail in New York
State. The fifth death occurred in June
when an inmate complained of chest pains, was given Tylenol, and died later that evening in his cell. - Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of inmates have been denied medical treatment and mental health care. - The grievances they file go unanswered. -
The County has drastically cut visiting hours. There
are no hours on the weekends, and limited evening hours, making it difficult and nearly impossible for many family members
and friends to see their loved ones. THERE IS A SOLUTION: -
County law REQUIRES an independent
oversight committee, called the Board of Visitors, to address issues and problems that arise at the Nassau County Correctional Center. -
The Board would be comprised of volunteers, who are
over 18 and Nassau County residents. The committee would have an office in the jail and would
be able to respond to inmate grievances and advise the sheriff about problems in the jail. - The Board would cost the county virtually nothing. -
Though mandated by law since 1990, the Board has never
formally operated. Previous administrations have talked about it, but no one has ever been formally appointed and the Board
has never met. -
The County Executive
is required to abide by the law. All he has to do is appoint members to the Board, give them some office space at the jail,
and allow them to do their job. WHAT YOU CAN DO: - Tell County Executive Edward Mangano to obey the law. Give him a call(516) 571-3131 -
Get involved in our campaign!
Call (516) 741-8520 or email Nassau@nyclu.org New York Civil Liberties Union Nassau Chapter, Prison Families Anonymous, Nassau Inmate Advocacy Group, Roosevelt-Freeport Chapter NAACP, S.T.R.O.N.G.
Youth, Inc., Nassau Affirmative Action Project
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