4th suicide spurs call for new jail scrutiny
The fourth suicide of a Nassau County inmate in the last 12 months has triggered the alarm of a key state lawmaker and inmate advocates.
Both the county jail and the inmate medical care supervised by the Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where the latest suicide occurred, had been the subject of federal oversight for six years ending in 2005.
On Monday, Darryl Woody, 44, of Westbury, hanged himself at the medical center, which handles the jail's health care.
Woody, who had depression and schizophrenia, according to his family, was transferred to the hospital after he slit his wrists in the jail's mental health tier.
Three other inmates committed suicide in the last 12 months at the jail - which correction experts consider to be unusually high.
"Given the fact that the feds have had involvement in the facility, it makes sense for them to take a look at what is or is not going on that might be helpful," said Assemb. Jeffrion Aubry (D-East Elmhurst), chairman of the Assembly's committee on correction.
The U.S. Justice Department had closely monitored the jail both for overcrowding and, more recently, after finding gross civil rights violations stemming from the 1999 beating death of an inmate and problems with NUMC's inmate medical care.
"We've been in communication with Department of Justice attorneys," said Samantha Fredrickson, executive director of the Nassau chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. She said she was rebuffed after she sought a meeting last fall with jail and county officials to address medical and mental health problems. "This death really illustrates that there are serious issues that demand immediate action."
Federal officials could not be reached Friday.
Woody's family acknowledged that he had long battled mental illness and said they don't understand why he wasn't more closely monitored.
"They weren't doing their job as far as watching him and doing what they were supposed to do," said Warren Woody, his brother. Darryl Woody was arrested on domestic violence charges.
In 2010, the Nassau jail's three suicides were one-third of all suicides in county facilities statewide and almost 10 percent of suicides in all New York correctional facilities, state records show.
The jail holds about 1,500 inmates, or 1.7 percent of the 86,000 state and county inmates.
"I don't think there's any doubt that that's a significant number of suicides to occur in any one year in any facility," said Thomas White, a Kansas-based clinical psychologist who studies prisoner suicides. "It certainly is a red flag that merits attention."
John Caher, spokesman for the state Commission of Correction, said the agency has begun its mandatory probe of the death, which takes an average of 13 months to complete.
County officials Friday said their investigation is ongoing. "We are concerned and await a report on how this incident occurred at the hospital," said County Executive Edward Mangano, in a statement.
A NUMC spokeswoman, Shelley Lotenberg, said the hospital's risk management team is also investigating.
"I don't understand how another one happened," said Godino's mother, Maria Godino, of Bethpage, Friday. "How didn't they learn the lesson?"
The Jeannot family's attorney, William Petrillo of Rockville Centre, said, "Clearly something needs to be addressed at the jail."
With Andrew Strickler
and Anthony M. DeStefano
Suicides at the jail
Four Nassau County Jail inmates have committed suicide in the last 12 months: