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Letter: Staffing at new jail isn't adequate

In the new Suffolk County Correctional Facility in

In the new Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank, one correction officer mans this entire pod. (March 22, 2013) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Regarding "Free taxpayers from jails" [Editorial, May 12], no one disputes the current state of our economy. We all want government to cut waste, increase efficiency and save money. But without thought, these worthwhile goals can result in penny-wise, pound-foolish decisions. These decisions in the long run will save little money and cost a lot with their impact on the safety of law enforcement officers, not to mention the potential increases in liability awards paid by the county.

Of course, I am talking about the staffing practices at the new jail in Yaphank. Practices may be the wrong term; madness is a better description. There are six pods, and 60 inmates will be housed in each pod. Each pod is to be manned by one unarmed correction officer stationed in the middle of the pod. No bars will separate him or her from these 60 inmates awaiting trial. No partner will be there to assist.

The thin safety net will be cameras feeding visual information about the pods, as well as the rest of the jail, to two screens in a control room. The officers will be responsible for looking at multiple images on two screens while also opening and closing gates, logging people in and out and answering phones. To make matters worse, the video feed will only cover a limited area at any time.

Law enforcement is a high-stress job, and stress on the job costs money. The staffing practices of the new facility seem like a savings on paper, but only if you exclude the hidden costs of a practice that is bound to increase the stress levels of already overburdened officers.

In the end, the cost will be to the well-being of those men and women who put themselves in harm's way to protect the public. The sheriff and the Commission of Corrections need to rethink this policy and change it.

Vito Dagnello, Nesconset

Editor's note: The writer is the president of the Suffolk County Correction Officers Association.

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