Two more inmates at the Nassau County jail have been slashed with sharp objects during clashes with other inmates, according to correction union officials, bringing to six the number who have been cut inside the East Meadow facility in four months.
Reports of a fight between alleged gang members Monday night prompted jail officials to lock the facility down and search it for weapons cell by cell, said John Jaronczyk, president of the Nassau County Sheriff's Correction Officers Benevolent Association.
But jail administration officials denied the new slashings sparked the lockdown.
"There was no emergency and there was no specific incident that gave rise to this search activity," said Capt. Michael R. Golio, of Sheriff Michael Sposato's administration. "The Correctional Center was placed in nonemergency lockdown today in order to conduct an institutional search of inmate housing areas at the direction of the Sheriff," he said in a statement.
Jaronczyk last week said, however, that he and his members have seen a marked increase in violence among gang members since jail officials began consolidating inmates in fewer housing areas, thereby bringing rival gang members into closer quarters.
"There are six inmates that were slashed in the last four months. That is unheard of," he said.
In the most recent incident, sources said, four inmates who were playing cards in a housing unit shortly before 7:30 p.m. were attacked by six others, resulting in two being cut with self-made weapons. One was slashed on the shoulder, the other on his arm. Correction officers broke up the fight using Mace. One man's injury required 11 stitches while the other declined treatment.
Correction officers searched the area and recovered another weapon that had not been used in the most recent incident, Jaronczyk said.
Golio said there has been no increase in violence at the facility. "Although there has been no systemic increase in inmate violence noted, the search was initiated out of an abundance of caution as a result of recent occurrences at the facility," he said, referring to the recent slashings.
Golio last week denied that a housing policy change had been implemented or that it gave rise to a spike in violence among gang members.
Still, Jaronczyk said that the population of the jail has steadily declined -- from an average of 1,600 per day several years ago to fewer than 1,200 per day now, while the number and proportion of gang members housed there has increased. Some housing areas are holding between 40 and 67 percent alleged members of gangs, according to statistics compiled by the union.
For example, on April 23, 2014, Jaronczyk said, the jail held 1,278 inmates and 209 of them -- 16 percent -- were identified as gang members. But on April 22 of this year, he said, the jail held 1,141 people and 236 of them were identified as gang members, or 21 percent of the total population.
Jaronczyk also said the union applauds the lockdown and cell-by-cell search for weapons, adding such a sweep has not been done in years. But, he added, "There's more to be done."
According to departmental reports obtained by Newsday, in one mid-January attack, an inmate's arm was cut, requiring 30 stitches. In another, occurring in late January, an inmate was cut along the left side of his face, a large wound requiring 230 stitches.
A late March attack left a victim cut on the right side of his face and his neck, and in April, another inmate's face was cut after a fight.