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Nassau County Jail Suicide Leads to Lawsuit


Best Seen From Afar: The guard booth outside Nassau jail.

The family of an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide at Nassau County jail last month is suing the county and the East Meadow facility in a wrongful death lawsuit alleging he was not properly cared for, given his psychiatric condition.

Port Washington-based attorneys with Parker Waichman LLP said in a statement Wednesday that the firm filed a notice of claim against the county and the jail on behalf of Lilyann Ryan. Her 32-year-old son, Bartholomew Ryan—a former Marine who served for a year in Al Taqaddum—hanged himself with a noose fashioned from a bed sheet in his cell on Feb. 24.


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Police had arrested Ryan for driving while high on drugs and speeding. He was later unable to make bail and was taken to the jail, where a corrections officer found him dead.

Ryan suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which led to his drug problem, according to his family and the attorneys. The lawsuit alleges that the county and jail failed to properly monitor, supervise and care for Ryan, despite knowing of his addiction and PTSD.

Nassau County Jail: Suicides, Health Care Changes, Budget Cuts Prompt Calls For Oversight

He was the fifth inmate to commit suicide in just over two years Nassau jail, which was tied with Buffalo jail for most suicides in the New York State in 2010. An inmate was also victim of a homicide at the jail in January and another inmate reportedly died of a medical condition late last year.

As a result, advocates have renewed recent calls for a legally mandated inmate oversight board after the latest death—a board that the past three county executives have failed to enact.

The corrections officer union is also suing the county over recent demotions that, combined with budget cuts, labor leaders have repeatedly warned are fueling turmoil in the jail.

The prior suicides in Nassau jail were subject of routine investigations by the state Commission on Corrections’ Medical Review Board. The resulting reports included a series of recommendations to improve inmate intake, officer training and supervision to prevent future deaths.

A spokeswoman for the commission has said that Sheriff Michael Sposato has disputed some of the mandates, which could trigger state action. It was not immediately clear how the latest death will play into the disagreement between the state and the jail.

A spokeswoman for County Executive Ed Mangano declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Sposato did not return a call for comment.

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