Murder suspect David Laffer is led out of Fifth Precinct...

Murder suspect David Laffer is led out of Fifth Precinct in Patchogue for arraignment in Central Islip. (June 24, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson made an unusual request Thursday of the state officials who will be assigned to the care and custody of David Laffer.

Hudson, who said Laffer had an "unnatural viciousness," said he'll ask that he spend his four consecutive life terms all alone because he poses “a heightened risk to the safety of the corrections officers who will be guarding” him. 

But correctional experts questioned whether the request for solitary confinement carried any weight. State prison officials said their personnel would decide how to handle the prisoner.

"We certainly respect the judge and his opinion, but every offender who comes into our system . . . is assessed by professional staff and it's determined where any individual offender will be sent within the system," said Peter Cutler, director of public information for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Correctional expert Roberg Gangi, a former executive of the New York State Correctional Association, called Hudson's recommendation "unheard of," and said it was "probably unenforceable."

"Correctional officials jealously guard their prerogatives when it comes to the handling of prisoners," said Gangi, now a senior policy advocate at the Urban Justice Center.

Michael Jacobson, a former New York City correctional commissioner who now heads the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice, said he could not recall a similar judicial request.

"It's a decision best left to correctional officials," Jacobson said. "The purpose of isolation is not to increase your punishment. . . . Prison is your punishment."

Gangi and Jacobson said prison officials need the flexibility of handing out rewards and punishment for behavior inside prison.

Hudson said he knew he could not order solitary confinement but told Laffer, "I will ask the Department of Corrections to impose on you the most restrictive environment possible."

The judge's law secretary, James Saladino, said the request would be in Laffer's order of commitment to state prison.

With William Murphy

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