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Nassau inmate on life support after suicide attempt, sources say

An aerial view of the Nassau County jail

An aerial view of the Nassau County jail in East Meadow is shown from Monday, April 4, 2011. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

A Nassau County jail inmate was hospitalized and being kept alive on life support Tuesday after a suicide attempt in the East Meadow correctional facility on Monday, sources said.

The 47-year-old hung himself with an arm sling he had for medical purposes while in a cell in the jail’s infirmary, according to sources with knowledge of the case. The sources said the man is believed to be brain dead.

A state Commission of Correction official confirmed Tuesday that Nassau jail officials had reported to the oversight agency that an inmate had attempted suicide.

But Nassau jail officials wouldn’t discuss specifics, with a spokesman for Sheriff Michael Sposato saying only that a medical emergency at the jail Monday led to an inmate’s hospitalization.

“The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation at this time. Due to medical privacy laws and the ongoing investigation we have no further comment at this time,” Sheriff’s Department Capt. Michael Golio said Tuesday in a prepared statement.

The suicide attempt happened at a time when the jail and its private medical provider, Armor Correctional Health Services, have come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the Commission of Correction’s criticism of Armor’s health care standards and civil lawsuits against the vendor and county after other inmate deaths. The state attorney general’s office also has been investigating Armor’s medical care practices.

Multiple inmate slashings connected to gang violence and the arrest of a former Armor nurse for allegedly smuggling razors and synthetic marijuana to inmates also have raised questions this year about the jail’s security.

Newsday isn’t publishing the name of the inmate who attempted suicide because his Mineola defense attorney, Patrick Kauffman, said authorities are having trouble locating the man’s next-of-kin.

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Kauffman said Tuesday. “My hopes are the officials at the jail will look closely into this and prevent anything like this from happening again.”

Court records show police arrested the inmate on Saturday on stolen property and grand larceny charges and he was scheduled for a hospital arraignment Sunday.

Sources said authorities later brought the inmate to the jail from Nassau University Medical Center, and his suicide attempt happened Monday afternoon.

Kauffman said he last saw his client June 7, when the man – who was free on bail -- came to court for a separate burglary case. The attorney said his client was wearing an arm sling then, and he believed it was because he’d been in a car accident. Kauffman added that the man didn’t seem depressed or show signs of mental health problems.

Armor spokeswoman Yeleny Suarez said in a statement Tuesday that the company “is committed to delivering quality patient care to incarcerated individuals in the Nassau County jail,” but wouldn’t comment further due to a medical privacy law and “out of respect for our patients.”

Three inmates have died in Nassau jail custody in 2016, according to the Commission of Correction, which is investigating the fatalities, as they do all jail deaths.

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