THE CHIEF-LEADER Nassau Jail Union Is Alarmed by Rise In Gang-Tied Slashings

Date Posted: 
Apr 28, 2015
Posted: Monday, April 27, 2015 5:00 pm
Nassau County Correctional Center inmates have slashed each other four times between mid-January and early April, the Nassau County Sheriff's Office Correction Officers' Benevolent Association said last week. All four attacks are believed to be gang-related, the union said.
"In my 25 years we've never had more slashings in that amount of time," the union's president, John Jaronczyk, said in an interview.
Inmates Down, Gangs Up
The rise in attacks comes even as the jail's population, 1,141 inmates as of April 22, was down 11 percent compared to last April, the union said. At the same time, the percentage of inmates identified as gang members has risen from 16 percent to 21 percent.
Mr. Jaronczyk blames Sheriff Michael J. Sposato, who he said has closed six housing units, consolidating inmates in fewer units and making it more difficult to keep members of various gangs separated. "Most of the housing areas open right now are at 95 percent or more of capacity," he said.
Censuses of two housing units provided by the union, each with 104 cells, found that 40 percent of inmates had been identified as gang members. In another unit with 21 cells, 67 percent of inmates were identified as gang members.
In one incident report obtained by THE CHIEF-LEADER, a member of the Bloods gang was slashed on the left arm Jan. 13 by a member of the Crips. He needed 30 stitches. The Crip was moved to a bullpen awaiting a new housing assignment.
Switch Earned 230 Stitches
On Jan. 29, another inmate was slashed on the face, requiring 230 stitches. Investigators determined that the inmate was slashed "because he changed his gang affiliation from Blood to Crip," according to another report obtained by this newspaper.
In the third incident, March 29, an inmate was slashed on the right side of his face and the back of his neck by another inmate using the jagged edge of a broken flashlight-battery case.
On April 2, an inmate was slashed on the face by another inmate, chased him. and began fighting with him, An officer ordered them to stop and when they refused used chemical spray. The injured inmate picked up a garbage can to block the spray.
The second inmate charged the officer, who used the spray again but hit him on the back of the head rather than in the face. At this point two other officers arrived to help the first one, who had sustained an injury to his shoulder, take control. "Both inmates are classified as gang members," according to the incident report.
A Dangerous Situation
Mr. Jaronczyk said he is worried about injuries to both inmates and Correction Officers. Re-opening even one or two of the closed units would help relieve the pressure, Mr. Jaronczyk said. Current staffing can handle reopening some units, he said, noting that overtime is at an all-time low.
"It seems he wants everything close," he said of Mr. Sposato. "He runs the jail like a mom-and-pop operation."
A spokesman for Mr. Sposato said the four slashings remain under investigation. "At this point there does not appear to be any systemic increase in inmate violence at the facility," Michael R. Golio said in an e-mail.
"There has been no change to facility practices regarding inmate housing assignments, and we continue to utilize the same parameters that we have for the past several years," he said. "For the obvious security reasons we will not comment on specific inmate-housing-assignment practices related to inmates who are or may be associated with certain identified security-risk groups.
No Clear Connection?
"The occurrence and frequency of inmate altercations is neither a stagnant nor predictable statistic," he continued. "Additionally, the involvement of a member of an identified security-risk group in any particular altercation does not, in and of itself, lead to the conclusion that the altercation was caused by or related to security-risk-group-activity. Inmates are involved in altercations for many reasons just as violence in society is the result of a myriad of causes."
Mr. Jaronczyk said, "Instead of controlling and quelling the gang activity inside the jail, this administration's lack of responsible action is actually promoting it. This union will continue to vigorously oppose the irresponsible cost-saving consolidation measures that put our officers at risk of being viciously assaulted by an incarcerated gang member." 
Reopening some units "would bring down some of the violence and ease the tension," Mr. Jaronczyk said. "We should use more of the space we have available to keep the jail at a safer level."
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