The bad news for Nassau County is that it faces two lawsuits over the way it runs its troubled jail. The good news, for a county with massive fiscal problems, is that Nassau can make one of them go away simply by obeying its own charter. That's what County Executive Edward Mangano needs to do.
One suit is coming from the family of Bartholomew Ryan, an Iraq veteran who hanged himself in the jail last month -- the fifth suicide in the jail or its prison ward at Nassau University Medical Center in a little over two years. The family has filed a notice of claim, soon to be followed by the actual lawsuit. That action will take time to play out in court, as the family seeks to show that jail officials were negligent in handling Ryan.
By comparison, the other suit would be easy to deal with. In 1990, the county amended its charter to set up a board of visitors at the jail. The board's role would be to look regularly into how the jail is run and make recommendations for improvement. But Mangano's two predecessors never got it up and running -- and neither has he.
So two inmates, with the help of the New York Civil Liberties Union, sued to force Mangano to obey the 1990 charter amendment and appoint the board.
The spate of suicides is evidence that the jail needs closer watching. Mangano should appoint the board to do just that. In the process, he'll render one lawsuit moot, save money on legal costs, and do the right thing.