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Lawmakers hurl questions at Nassau County jail for staffing levels, lack of family visits

Matt B

In a hearing about Nassau County’s jail this week, lawmakers focused their questions on staffing levels, cutting costs and increasing visits for families, particularly on the weekend.

Nassau’s correction officers union brought up their concerns with lawmakers last month saying they were dangerously understaffed and that the county’s commissioner of corrections, Michael Sposato, was cutting costs in a way that put officers and people incarcerated at risk.

“There's no problem with that at all. Actually, it's good management," Nassau’s sheriff Anthony LaRocco said in reaction to concern about aggressive cost cutting.

Legislators asked several rounds of pointed questions on why the county wasn’t hiring more correction officers while at the same time cutting overtime.

Deputy County Executive Tatum Fox said they have been trying to hire more correction officers, but have had difficulty recruiting.

Separately, legislator Denise Ford, who heads the Public Safety Committee, urged the county to add weekend visits for family members.

"I would encourage that you look into it and seriously change the policy because I think it is unfair," Ford said. “I think that that's a policy that must be changed."

Currently, Nassau does not allow weekend visits and only has enough weekly evening visits for a third of detainees. Suffolk and Westchester counties have in-person visits on the weekend. Rikers in New York City has televisits available on the weekends.

Fox said the administration would consider adding them.

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.