Nassau’s Correction Officers union called Friday for a public apology from five Democratic County legislators who attended a protest this week with activists who alleged inmate abuse and neglect by guards at the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow.
Brian Sullivan, president of Nassau’s Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, said the lawmakers — Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport); Legis. Arnold Drucker of Plainview; Ellen Birnbaum of Great Neck; Siela Bynoe of Westbury; Delia De-Riggi Whitton of Glen Cove — “spit in the eyes” of his members.
Sullivan cited an “inflammatory” sign at Wednesday’s protest held by one activist, and printed in Newsday, that read, “End Correctional Officer Brutality.”
“What’s most infuriating and galling is that our elected leaders in the Democratic caucus would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with this group,” said Sullivan, arguing that two weeks earlier the same lawmakers asked the union for its endorsement.
Sullivan said if Democratic lawmakers did not publicly apologize he would call for their immediate resignation.
In a letter to the union Friday, the five Democrats called the flap a “misunderstanding” that they “deeply regret.”
“While we became aware after the fact that a participant at that event was holding up an inflammatory sign, our history and record of support should make it clear to everyone that we do not endorse or answer for such derogatory nonspecific accusatory messaging,” the letter stated.
On Wednesday, members of the newly formed Nassau County Jail Advocates Coalition, led by the Nassau County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, demanded reforms at the jail. They asserted that “inhumane” conditions were responsible for a series of inmate deaths since 2011.
Susan Gottehrer, the NYCLU’s Nassau chapter director, criticized conditions at the jail, saying “the sick, the injured, the physically and emotionally challenged” have been “beaten or isolated, neglected or ignored.”
On Friday, Gottehrer offered a more measured statement.
“The conditions inside the Nassau County Jail are the sole responsibility of Sheriff [Michael] Sposato and [County Executive] Ed Mangano,” she said. “The hard work and conditions under which law-abiding officers labor inside the jail are recognized. We can all work toward the same outcome of safe conditions and humane treatment for incarcerated people.”
To date, 190 officers have been injured in the line of duty at the jail, while 271 were hurt by inmates last year, Sullivan said.