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Jail suicide sparks reviews by LI, state officials

A police recruit jogs around the Nassau County

A police recruit jogs around the Nassau County Jail. Credit: Newsday File Image

The apparent suicide of a Nassau County inmate hours after his murder conviction will spark three reviews by state and local agencies looking at his personal and medical history, and how well jail officials monitored him.

Nassau Police Det. Lt. Kevin Smith said Wednesday while the sheriff's department will do its own review, homicide detectives also investigate inmate suicides, primarily to see if the death could have been staged. The state Commission of Correction investigates all inmate deaths.

Herve Jeannot, 30, faced up to life in prison after his Tuesday conviction in a murder-for-hire plot. Nassau police said correction officers checked on him every 15 minutes.

Jeannot's suicide is the third this year in Nassau, officials said.

In the last five years, four inmates killed themselves in Nassau and five in Suffolk, according to the state Commission of Correction, which investigates inmate deaths.

Nassau County's acting Sheriff Michael Sposato and Elizabeth Loconsolo, a department attorney, did not return calls. A prepared statement said Jeannot was in the jail's general population for a year and a half.

There were two suicides and one attempt at Suffolk correctional facilities in 2009, according to Suffolk County Sheriff's Department. This year, the only attempt ended in death. "Hanging is by far the most common method because it's the easiest," said Deputy Chief Michael Sharkey.

Sharkey said incoming inmates are interviewed to determine their housing, and a medical professional examines them. Either can make a referral to the jail's mental health unit, run by the county health department. A judge can also "flag" a prisoner for a mental health evaluation. Inmates under suicide watch are typically overseen by one officer observing up to four people.

"It can be as stringent as one-to-one, with a direct line of sight to the prisoner all the time," Sharkey said. Agency policy also dictates that any prisoner who pleads guilty or is convicted of a serious crime is re-interviewed by a classification officer. A 72-hour evaluation is also done.

Bill Kephart, head of the Nassau Criminal Courts Bar Association, said just convicted prisoners should be monitored more closely. "To me that's just a basic policy they should have" he said.

With Matthew Chayes

and Ann Givens

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