Nassau County lawmakers hired a jail heath service monitor on Monday after New York State authorities accused the county jail’s medical provider of neglecting to prevent the deaths of at least five inmates.
The Nassau Legislature’s rules committee unanimously approved the $45,000 contract with California-based Community Oriented Correctional Health Services. The company will make sure that Florida-based Armor Correctional Health Medical Services, the current health care provider at Nassau jail, complies with its contract. It will also ensure a smooth transition to a new provider in the coming months as the county switches to a new company.
“The county deemed it in its own best interest to bring in a second set of eyes,” Elizabeth Loconsolo, an attorney for Nassau County, told lawmakers during a tense exchange over the hiring. She is married to Nassau Sheriff Michael Sposato—the jail’s top official.
Bringing in a monitor was one of the measures sought in a lawsuit the New York State Attorney General filed against Armor in July. The AG is also seeking to fine the company and to bar it from bidding on future contracts in the state. Both the lawsuit and the state Commission on Corrections have accused the company of failing to properly treat inmates since Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano privatized the East Meadow-based jail’s medical services four years ago.
“Will this contract stop the dying at the jail?” asked Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) before Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) stopped lawmakers from questioning Loconsolo further.
Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos had refused to pay Armor until the company provided more documentation that it was fulfilling its contract, but recently the comptroller released part of the money owed.
Armor didn’t seek to renew its contract when the county solicited bidders in March, so Nassau is in the process of choosing a new medical provider.
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“We need to make sure…that that new entity does not repeat the past practices as Armor,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).
Abrahams asked Loconsolo whether the county would support hiring Armor again if the company sought to have its contract renewed. She said she “won’t answer a hypothetical.”
Loconsolo repeatedly reminded lawmakers that the allegations that Armor was negligent in the inmates’ deaths haven’t been proven in court. She also noted that inmates died when Nassau University Medical Center was the jail’s health-care provider.
“Any death of an inmate is a tragedy,” she said. “Unfortunately, it happens.”
Lawmakers weren’t appeased.
“I think these are more than allegations,” Solages said. “This is a crisis.”
The most recent death occurred in July. The victim was reportedly a 20-year-old from Hempstead. The Florida-based company is currently facing federal lawsuits from the families of four inmates who previously died in the county jail.