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Top 12 Qualities of a New Nassau County Sheriff

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Top 12 Qualities of a New Nassau County Sheriff
By Nassau County Jail Advocates

We applaud County Executive-Elect Laura Curran for keeping her campaign pledge to relieve Sheriff Sposato from his position at year’s end! Below are the top twelve qualities that we believe County Executive-Elect Curran should look for in a new Sheriff.

If you agree, please sign our petition to County Executive-Elect Curran at the end of the page, and add your own comments about what qualities you’d like to see in our county’s new sheriff!

12) Prior work experience outside the fields of corrections and law enforcement.

There are proven advantages to hiring candidates from outside fields. They bring a fresh perspective and innovative problem solving approach. This is exactly what Nassau County needs to transform the culture of mismanagement, negligence, and corruption within its corrections and law enforcement institutions

Hiring a candidate with experience exclusively in law enforcement and corrections with only get us more of the same. We urge County Executive-Elect Lara Curran to pursue candidates with backgrounds in public health, social work, conflict resolution, or human rights advocacy.

11) Minimum of a college level education.

You may be surprised to learn that this isn’t already a requirement. We require many professions including teachers, nurses, therapists, architects, and engineers to have a college degree. Shouldn’t the same standards apply to the Sheriff, arguably one of the most powerful officials in the whole county, charged with protecting the safety and rights 1.36 million people?

Evidence shows that police officers with a college level education are less likely to use excessive force. Presumably, a Sheriff with a college education would be less likely to foster a culture that is permissive of excessive force and mistreatment of incarcerated people.

10) Committed to increased training for correctional officers, especially in de-escalation and conflict resolution skills.

At the same time that Sposato has slashed programs for incarcerated persons, he also drastically reduced the amount of training that Correctional Officers receive. A Correctional Officer at Nassau County Jail currently receives as little as ONE DAY of training. The new Sheriff must be committed to dramatically increasing the training provided for all correctional workers. Conflict resolution and de-escalation trainings can help COs learn to maintain order and safety by building strong relationships with incarcerated people, rather than escalating situations that needlessly end in the use of force.

9) Has zero tolerance for sexual harassment or racial discrimination within the workplace.

“A Nassau County sheriff’s deputy says her unit was run like a fraternity house, with male officers constantly taunting her with sexist, degrading remarks.” (CBS Local, 11/17/2014). The new Sheriff will have their work cut out for them to transform the pervasive culture of sexual harassment condoned and encouraged by their predecessor. This will require unwavering discipline and commitment to a workplace that is safe for all people whether they are employees or inmates.

8) Selected with input from formerly incarcerated people and communities most affected by over-policing in Nassau County.

Those most impacted by the corrupt and nefarious practices and policies of the outgoing administration absolutely must have a role in the selection of the new Sheriff. Ideally, this means the process for choosing a new Sheriff must not be hastily rushed. We suggest County Executive-Elect Curran appoint an acting sheriff in the mean time, in order to give her administration time to truly consult with affected communities, including holding open-to-the-public hearings in targeted neighborhoods.

7) Values the rehabilitative benefits of family contact and treats visiting family members with dignity and respect.

A new Sheriff must take measures to encourage contact with families such as reinstituting weekend visiting days and providing visitors with shelter from the snow, rain, and heat while they wait, sometimes for hours, to see their loved ones. Denying or minimizing incarcerated people’s contact with visitors has no value and has been proven to be counterproductive in reducing recidivism rates.

6) Deeply understands the structural inequalities that contribute to higher incarceration rates among poor people and people of color.

Nassau County has a mass incarceration problem. In a county that ranks among the most racially segregated regions of the USA, the Sheriff must understand how structural income inequality and racial bias and discrimination contribute to the over-policing and over incarceration of Nassau County’s low-income communities and communities of color.

5) Respects the 4th and 8th Amendment rights of all Nassau County residents, whether suspected or convicted of a crime.

Roughly 70% of those in Nassau County custody are pre-trial, have not been convicted of a crime, and are therefore innocent until proven guilty. And while some may not realize it, our Constitution’s inalienable rights also extend to the 30% of those who in custody have been convicted. The routine violation of incarcerated persons’ Constitutional and basic human rights must end now and we need the right Sheriff to make this happen.

4) Committed to following best standards and practices in correctional medical and mental healthcare.

No more deaths due to medical negligence, period and end of story. The National Commission on Correctional Healthcare has developed voluntary accreditation programs for jails and prisons who seek to apply best standards and practices in correctional healthcare. Standards and practices which the Sheriff and the County have simply ignored for far too long. No longer! The new Sheriff must immediately begin work to get the facility’s operations in line with these standards.

3) Has no disciplinary record and is able to pass a psychological screening to rule out racial and gender bias, anger management problems, and propensity for violence.

While there is no one agreed upon method to screen for racial and gender bias, it should be up to County Executive-Elect, her administration, and hiring team to research and chose the one they assess to be most reliable. A professionally trained psychologist will have the tools to assess red flags when it comes to anger and aggression. However, it must also be clear that candidates with a history of mental illness should by no means be automatically disqualified for the position of sheriff!

2) Places the lives and safety of incarcerated people and correctional employees above budget concerns or county politics.

(Almost Former) Sheriff Sposato boasts that his major accomplishment as Sheriff was to slash the jail’s budget, presumably saving taxpayer money.

Meanwhile at least 17 deaths have occurred under his watch. (No hyperlink, just Google these names: Roy Nordstrom, Bart Ryan, Antwan Brown, Darryl Woody, Todd Brant, Kevin Brown, John Gleeson, Antonio Marinaccio Jr., Bobby Mitchell, Samuel Lawrence, William Satchell, Emanuel McElveen, John Quaresimo, Herve Jeannot, Eamon McGinn, Gasparino Godino, Elizabeth Stenson)

Overcrowding, inadequate mental healthcare, and the absence of any educational, rehabilitative, and re-entry programs have placed inmates and Correctional Officers at increased risk of injury and done little to reduce recidivism rates. As a result, the county has had to shell out millions of dollars in taxpayer money to settle lawsuits stemming from Sposato’s disregard for human life.

Our next Sheriff must be driven by a higher calling than cost-cutting!

1) Seeks to model Nassau County Jail after forward-looking correctional facilities from at home and abroad.

From Massachusetts to Scandinavia, there are examples of progressive corrections operations with proven records of humane rehabilitation, successful restorative justice programs, and robust re-entry support services. These facilities have demonstrably led to lower recidivism rates, lower rates of violent incidents within jails and prisons, and increased public safety for all members of the community.

The new Sheriff must be willing and able to transform Nassau County Jail from a “Human Rights FAIL” into a place where “Human Rights PREVAIL”!


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