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Critical report on Nassau inmate death draws calls for suspension of health care provider contract

John Gleeson of Oceanside, an inmate at the

John Gleeson of Oceanside, an inmate at the Nassau County jail, died while in custody on July 14, 2014, correction officials said. Credit: News 12 Long Island

Inmate advocates and the Nassau County Legislature's top Democrat were among those Tuesday calling for a suspension of the jail health care provider's contract, following the state's finding of a pattern of "inadequate and neglectful medical care."

The call for County Executive Edward Mangano's administration to take action followed a state Commission of Correction report on an Oceanside man's 2014 jail custody death. The report included a broad criticism of private contractor Armor Correctional Health Services.

Jason Starr, director of Nassau's New York Civil Liberties Union chapter, said of inmate John Gleeson's death: "This could be anyone. And this could certainly happen again." Starr said he hoped the findings, including that Gleeson's death may have been prevented if not for "incompetent" care, would galvanize the county's leadership to dump Armor.

Armor didn't answer a request for comment yesterday.

A spokesman for Mangano, a Republican, said Tuesday that while the legislature approved a two-year contract extension in June, the report "raises concerning allegations" and "the matter has been referred to the county attorney for review."

Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) repeated his call for the suspension, suggesting inmate health care could possibly go back to Nassau University Medical Center in the interim.

An NUMC spokeswoman declined to comment.

The state directed the legislature's presiding officer, Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), to have lawmakers probe Armor's fitness as jail medical provider.

GOP legislative spokesman Frank Moroney said Mangano could put an emergency contract in place without a bid process. But he said Republicans haven't had any indications Mangano intends to suspend Armor's contract. Of the report, he added: "The GOP majority is not taking it lightly."

John Jaronczyk, head of the correction officers' union, called the findings "disturbing," saying Armor also provides any emergency care officers need in the jail and adding: "I'd like to say that my officers feel safe going to them, and I'm not so sure that they do."

Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said her office has been looking at Armor's contract, renewed with no chance for competitors to bid, as part of an ongoing county contract review, adding: "It's critical that county officials promptly ensure proper care is available to Nassau's inmates."

Dennis O'Brien, head of the county's Criminal Courts Bar Association, said members "would fully support" any measures to improve inmate care and had gotten many complaints.

Attorney Marc Gann, who in an April letter complained to the county and Armor about inadequate inmate care, said he favored a suspension, calling Armor "a company in it for the money and nothing else."

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