Correction officers at the Nassau jail have responded to four gang-related slashings since January -- including one where the victim's face required hundreds of stitches, according to officials and reports.
The violence, from mid-January through early April, is some of the worst in decades, said John Jaronczyk, president of the Nassau County Sheriff's Correction Officers Benevolent Association.
"In my 25-year career we've never had a three-month period where we've had four slashings," Jaronczyk said Thursday. He added the jail is experiencing more conflict because of Sheriff Michael Sposato's attempts in the last couple of years to house a decreasing inmate population in fewer housing units to save money on staffing.
As inmates are transferred from lesser populated units and condensed into fewer units, the consolidation, Jaronczyk said, frees up some housing units but creates an "artificial overcrowding" in the ones to which the inmates are transferred. The practice, he said, increases friction among rivals who would not normally come in contact with each other.
"If there's an increase in inmate violence, it could potentially lead to inmates getting injured and also officers getting injured," he said.
But jail officials said they have seen no spike in violence or the severity of injuries.
Capt. Michael Golio, speaking for Sheriff Michael Sposato, denied Thursday there was an increase in violence at the East Meadow facility and the premise that any violence was a consequence of a change in housing policy.
"There has been no change to facility practices regarding inmate housing assignments and we continue to utilize the same parameters that we have for the past several years," he said, adding the slashings are under investigation. "At this point there does not appear to be any systemic increase in inmate violence at the facility."
According to departmental reports obtained by Newsday, in one mid-January attack, an inmate received a cut on his arm, 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 was cut on his face following a fight.
Jaronczyk said the main common denominator in every incident is that each of the victims and identified perpetrators was an alleged gang member. But Golio said inmates clash for "a myriad of causes."
"Jail is a very tough place and you need the room to separate different sectors," Jaronczyk said. "We believe there should be a little bit more room to separate these problem individuals."