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Nassau jail suicide called 'preventable'

An aerial view of the Nassau County Jail

An aerial view of the Nassau County Jail on Carman Avenue in East Meadow. (Nov. 3, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

A 32-year-old Brooklyn man's 2010 suicide in the Nassau County jail was "preventable," said the state authority that investigated his death, citing lapses in his care by medical professionals.

The state Commission of Correction also faulted jail personnel for improperly altering or inputting entries in a log book that records officers' actions during shifts and using an outdated screening form to assess Eamon McGinn's drug use and suicidal risk.

"The Medical Review Board deems this to have been a preventable death with inadequate provision of medical and mental health care," said the commission's report, released Thursday.

McGinn's Jan. 3, 2010 death, stems from a lack of proper medical attention, the report said, prompting investigators to recommend tightening medical procedures such as adopting a treatment regimen for opiates and alcohol withdrawal.

Officials at the Nassau University Medical Center, which provides medical and mental health care in the jail, said the commission's reading of the facts is fair and that they have already corrected problems. "We found in our internal review that there were some deficiencies and processes that needed improvements, but not necessarily a cause and effect," said spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg.

The hospital, which recently lost its contract with the jail, told commission staff that it had implemented changes, including re-educating staff on procedures when people are admitted to the jail, revising referral forms and using new treatment protocols.

Jail Capt. Mike Golio said the log book errors were clerical and had nothing to do with McGinn's suicide. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Loconsolo cited the fact that the commission did not cite officers' actions as contributing to the death.

McGinn's family could not be reached for comment but Samantha Fredrickson, director of the Nassau chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the findings were disturbing.

"We've become increasingly concerned that the medical and mental health care is not living up to constitutional standards and this report is really evidence of that," she said.

McGinn, who was struggling with drug abuse problems while being detained at the East Meadow facility on burglary, forgery and petty larceny charges, was the first of four Nassau inmates to hang themselves between January 2010 and January 2011.

The results of the investigation into McGinn's suicide come as the jail endures increasing scrutiny by the commission, which has urged jail officials to comply with state regulations.

The commission's report gave this account of the events leading to McGinn's death:

McGinn turned himself in to Glen Cove police on Dec. 31, 2009, a day after he had kicked in the door of his mother-in-law's home, stole three checks from a dresser drawer and forged one for $350. When he was arrested, he admitted to using OxyContin and cocaine at the time of the burglary.

He was arraigned Jan. 1, 2010, and held on $5,000 bond, brought to the jail and assigned to new-inmate housing. When he arrived at the jail, McGinn said he used drugs but he was assessed at low risk for suicide.

But on Jan. 3, at 6 p.m., he asked a correction officer what time inmates would be let out of their cells. Fifteen minutes later, the officer discovered McGinn hanging by a bed sheet looped around the bars of his cell.

 

 

Four suicides in one year

 

January 2011: Darryl Woody, 44, of Westbury. He hanged himself despite being on suicide watch. Days before the hanging the depressed schizophrenic had slit his wrists in the jail following his arrest on Christmas Eve on domestic violence charges.

Late October 2010: Herve Jeannot, 29, of Deer Park. Tied bedsheets into a noose and slipped it around his neck hours after he was found guilty of first-degree murder.

Early October 2010: Gasparino Godino, 31, of Bethpage. Used bedsheet to hang himself within a day of being jailed on robbery and drug charges.

January 2010: Eamon McGinn, 32, of Brooklyn, hanged himself with a sheet in the jail after being incarcerated on a burglary charge.

-- MATTHEW CHAYES

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