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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Problems mount at Nassau County jail

Nassau County Correctional Center is seen here in

Nassau County Correctional Center is seen here in an undated photo. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Farewell to Armor Correctional Health Services, which until Aug. 31 provided medical care at the Nassau County jail. But let’s not stop there.

The same goes for the administration of outgoing County Executive Edward Mangano; Legis. Norma Gonsalves, the Republican presiding officer who is not seeking re-election; and Sheriff Michael Sposato, who is unlikely to keep his job when a new regime assumes control of Nassau in January.

When the new county executive does come in, he or she will do well to comb through the growing stack of state Commission of Correction reports about Armor, jail health care and lawsuits filed by families of inmates while Armor was in place.

The goal would be to take names of doctors and nurses the commission has asked other state offices to probe for incompetence and professional misconduct — and do what is necessary to ensure they never handle patients at the jail again.

For years, Armor has defended its standard of care at the jail.

A spokeswoman did so again in a Sunday Newsday report about the commission’s latest findings. The story reported commission findings that Armor failed to provide adequate health care treatment, directly resulting in the deaths of three inmates in 2016.

Earlier commission reports found that Armor — which has questioned the commission’s findings — had provided inadequate care in at least eight of the 14 deaths during the company’s tenure.

Since Armor assumed jail care in 2011, Nassau often supported the company, even as disturbing commission reports began piling up. When Mangano administration officials were pressed after the state attorney general sued the firm, one justification for keeping Armor was that its contract indemnified Nassau against claims involving company actions.

There is no dispute that the contract with Armor saved Nassau millions of dollars over its duration. But those savings could be short-lived.

In April, the family of military veteran Bartholomew Ryan, who committed suicide in the jail in 2012, won nearly $8 million after a jury trial in a civil suit against Armor and Nassau. Other federal lawsuits are pending, and the correction commission, which investigates all inmate deaths, is reviewing four other deaths.

Records relating to the most recent investigations led the commission’s chairman to conclude that the sheriff’s department shared responsibility with Armor for failing to put in meaningful reforms after earlier deaths at the jail.

In Nassau — unlike Suffolk — the sheriff is appointed by the county executive rather than elected. In response to the commission’s latest findings, Nassau said it takes inmate deaths seriously, and that the Mangano administration believes the “county will be found to have acted in the best interest” of inmates.

Really? Because the Newsday report by Bridget Murphy also found that Sposato and Gonsalves were aware of the commission’s preliminary findings in the three 2016 deaths when Mangano pitched a three-month extension of the firm’s lease — which lawmakers approved.

The new county executive, who will be faced with past and possibly future lawsuits over jail health care, certainly will learn that artificially cheap health care has a cost. But there’s a new vendor, Nassau University Medical Center, which will have a chance to get things right.

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