Nassau County lawmakers pressed county jail officials on staffing levels, budget cuts and increasing visits for families — particularly on the weekend — during a series of pointed questions at a hearing this week.
Nassau’s correction officers union told lawmakers last month they were dangerously understaffed and that the county’s commissioner of corrections, Michael Sposato, was cutting costs in a way that put officers and incarcerated people at risk.
“Do you see any type of inherent conflict in someone who is supposed to be in charge of taking care of the staff and running the facility correctly also being charged with controlling overtime?” Democrat Delia DeRiggi-Whitton asked jail officials during a Wednesday hearing.
“There's no problem with that at all. Actually, it's good management," Nassau Sheriff Anthony LaRocco responded.
Legislators asked several rounds of questions on why the county wasn’t hiring more correction officers while at the same time cutting overtime.
“One of the drivers of overtime is the fact that you don't have enough people to fill your staffing,” said Republican Steve Rhoads. “Do we need to streamline the civil service process? Is it investing in recruiting? Is it an increase in the base salary?”
“It’s a complement of all three,“ said Deputy County Executive Tatum Fox, adding that the county has been trying to hire more correction officers, but has had difficulty recruiting.
Separately, Denise Ford, who heads the Legislature's public safety committee, urged the county to add weekend visits for family members.
"I would encourage that you look into it and seriously change the policy because I think it is unfair," Ford said. “I think that that's a policy that must be changed."
Currently, Nassau does not allow weekend visits and only has enough weekly evening visits for a third of detainees. Suffolk and Westchester counties have in-person visits on the weekend. Rikers Island in New York City has televisits available on the weekends.
Fox said the administration would consider adding them.