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Letter: Oversight of jailed mentally ill

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco stands in one

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco stands in one of the four pods at the new Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. (March 22, 2013) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

I applaud the decision by Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco to appoint a six-person, community-based advisory board to provide outside oversight of the jail ["6 join Suffolk sheriff civic advisory board," News, Jan. 17].

As a mental-health professional who has been working at the jail for 12 years for a private, nonprofit agency, assisting mentally ill and disabled inmates, I fully understand how the jail needs some outside voice and oversight.

The public would be shocked at how we treat disabled and mentally ill inmates, many of whom have not been convicted of a crime or may be in jail for a minor misdemeanor. Inmates who are unstable and out of touch with reality are often put into hand and leg shackles with a restraining face mask.

As a society, we need to take a long, hard look at how we treat disabled and mentally ill people in the criminal justice system. I wonder how we as a society would react if a disabled blind person were mistreated after being arrested and incarcerated?

Jerry Bilinski, Riverhead
 

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