It is high time for Nassau County to terminate its contract with a private company, Armor Correctional Health Services of Florida, and replace Armor with services by Nassau University Medical Center. Decent health care in this country needs to be a right, not a privilege only for those who can afford it and that applies also to those who are spending time in jail, some for alleged crimes for which they are still awaiting trial.
But at the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow, health care does not seem to exist at all. In 2011, Nassau County and the jail hired Armor under an $11 million-a-year contract. To say that Armor has done a poor job of it is a very powerful understatement. Since Armor took over, 12 Nassau County Jail inmates have died while in custody, one of them just last week and three others since March. This is criminal in any kind of humane society and Armor cannot be allowed to continue to serve the inmate population. Instead, the job must be turned over to the Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, which is just across the street from the jail. Not only would medical attention be prompt, but county money would not be leaving the state.
Already, some action has been taken. New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against Armor, alleging woefully inadequate care and false and fraudulent billing practices. The State Commission of Correction has said that Armor has provided deficient care in connection with the health of five inmates. Following the AG’s lawsuit, County Comptroller George Maragos has withheld payments on Armor’s June payment of more than $900,000.
That is to the good, but it is not enough.
The corrections officers at the jail have also joined in protest against the management of the facility, arguing inadequate security that is a danger to them and the community at large.
Nassau County Sheriff Michael Sposato, who used to be a cook at the jail and now oversees the facility, had renewed Armor’s contract when it expired last year. So the former cook has helped poison the well.
The time is long past for Nassau County to terminate its contract with Armor and provide the jail inmates with proper medical care and services. The great Russian writer Dostoyevsky once said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
—Dean Hart, president, Long Island Citizens for Good Government