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Family, friends again allowed to visit inmates in Nassau County jail

Visitors are again allowed entry to the Nassau

Visitors are again allowed entry to the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow. Credit: AllislandAerial.com/Kevin P. Coughlin

Visitors returned to the Nassau County Correctional Center on Wednesday, more than three months after officials suspended visitation due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sheriff James Dzurenda said.

Visitors are required to practice social distancing and wear masks while visiting inmates. Twenty-seven friends and family members visited inmates Wednesday, the sheriff said.

“I know how critical it is for even first-time offenders to have support from their family and community,” Dzurenda said. “We were worried about inmates getting depressed and suicidal. They need that emotional contact with their family and friends.”

Dzurenda said he feared inmates who felt desperate because they had not seen friends and relatives for weeks might lash out at correction officers and other staff members.

“The inmates need this,” Dzurenda said, “and the staff needs it.”

Visitors must make an appointment to see an inmate through the sheriff’s website or by phone. Visitors who show up at the East Meadow facility without booking an appointment will be denied access. Visits will be limited to 30 minutes, Dzurenda said.

Inmates will not be separated from visitors by partitions, but they will be required to sit at opposite ends of long tables. Visitors also will be separated from each other by at least six feet.

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Jail officials in Suffolk and Nassau ended visits in late March in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Public health experts and correction officials say jails and prisons are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases because inmates, correction officers and staff share cramped spaces for long periods of time.

Although correctional facilities across the nation have had COVID-19 outbreaks, Long Island jail officials took steps — including quarantining sick or exposed inmates, isolating new admissions, and aggressive cleaning — to protect inmates and staff members.

In Nassau, 59 inmates and 101 staff members have tested positive since March. All the inmates and 72 staff members have been cleared since then.

Just one inmate is believed to have been infected with the coronavirus while in a Suffolk jail, Sheriff Errol Toulon said last week. Another inmate tested positive when he was admitted but has since recovered. About two dozen correction officers and deputies have been infected with the coronavirus. All but one have recovered.

The Suffolk County jails in Riverhead and Yaphank also have welcomed visitors for the first time since Long Island and the rest of New York State locked down in March.

Several dozen people visited inmates at both facilities Tuesday, according to Sgt. Paul Spinella, a spokesman for Sheriff Toulon.

To make an appointment to visit an inmate at the Nassau County Correction Center, visit https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/1892/Correctional-Center or call 516-572-8992.

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