Violence breaks out at the Nassau County jail

Union president criticizes facility adminitration’s response


A violent confrontation involving several inmates and officers at the Nassau County Correctional Center on July 9 left 10 officers with minor injuries, according to the president of the correctional officers union. The incident is currently under investigation.

Michael Golio, the Sheriff’s De-partment’s investigator captain, confirmed that there was an “inmate disturbance,” but declined to provide further information. “Our officers quickly responded, and the incident was resolved,” Golio added.

According to Brian Sullivan, the president of the county’s Correctional Officers Benevolent Association, officers were preparing to transfer a Bloods gang member to another housing unit.

As they searched him, the inmate punched an officer in the face, drawing attention from several other inmates, Sullivan said. The other inmates began shouting threats at the officers and shattered a glass panel between them. They requested assistance, and some of the inmates retreated, while others started punching and kicking the officers, who used pepper spray to subdue them, according to Sullivan.

The inmate who caused the incident was transferred to the Suffolk County Jail and, on July 10, officials separated the inmates in-volved in the brawl and conducted a jail-wide dormitory search.

Sullivan said he was displeased with the jail administration’s reaction to the bedlam, contending that there should have been a search immediately afterward and that inmates should have been separated sooner.

“There’s been plenty of gang-related incidents at the jail,” Sullivan said. While there have been no reported incidents this year of fights among gang members, there were two in 2017 and at least five in 2016. This spurred an effort by jail officials to intermittently relocate gang members, but Sullivan said that more needs to be done to prevent violence.

County Legislator Siela Bynoe, a Democrat from Westbury, has said that conditions at the jail must be improved, and last May she introduced legislation to increase the presence of the jail’s oversight committee, the Board of Visitors. The committee is described in the county charter as having the authority to investigate conditions at the jail, but Bynoe said that it currently does not have the funding or the authority to enact change when it is needed.

A third-party advocacy group called the Nassau County Jail Advocates also wants to strengthen the role of the Board of Visitors. “We look forward to a time when the Board of Visitors can be fully seated with qualified members who can help investigate and create safer conditions for both inmates and corrections officers,” said Susan Gottehrer, an NCJA member and the president of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“A lot of attention has to be paid to this jail that has been neglected for years,” Sullivan said, adding, however, that he has a different suggestion for improving conditions there. The facility is understaffed, he said, though it recently hired 26 new corrections officers. Nearly twice that many are slated to retire this year, according to Sullivan, and the jail has operated with 200 fewer officers than in 2012. As a result, Sullivan said, “Our emergency response capability has been greatly diminished.”