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Butler v. Suffolk County (Challenging appalling, inhumane conditions at Suffolk County jails)

  • Sewage that regularly bubbles up from shower drains and toilets. Flawed plumbing at Riverhead causes human waste from one toilet to gush out of the toilet into an adjoining cell, a circumstance know as “Ping-Pong” toilets. Inmates often wake up with sewage overflowing from the toilets onto their cell floors. At Yaphank, raw sewage puddles from drains near inmates’ dining tables.
  • Decrepit showers that are coated with unavoidable thick, black mold and reek of mildew. The faucets and pipes are rusted over. Corrections officers at Riverhead have reportedly told inmates that they would not even let their dogs use the showers.
  • Air vents so caked with rust, mold and dirt that ventilation is affected and the air reeks of feces, urine and mold.
  • Widespread vermin infestations. At Yaphank, inmates often see rodents in housing and food preparation areas. They describe that roaches, spiders and flies “are everywhere.”
  • Unsanitary kitchens and dining areas that are covered with mold, rust and chipping paint. The men housed at Yaphank have reported being served food containing rodent droppings.
  • Inmates are continually subjected to extremely cold temperatures due to high air conditioning in the summer and lack of heating in the winter. Inmates receive only one, very thin blanket.
  • Brown drinking water that has made men violently ill.

Inmates who have made formal complaints or filed lawsuits over jail conditions have been subjected to various forms of retaliation from corrections officers, including having their cells “tossed” or being denied privileges, such as access to the law library, use of phones or access to television. On March 19, 2013, U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert ruled that allegations of constitutional violations in were sufficiently serious to state claims for violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The judge also ruled that, because the alleged constitutional violations affect all current and future detainees of the Suffolk County’s jails, the case should move forward as a certified class action. In the same ruling, the judge denied the motion to dismiss the case with respect to Suffolk County. Although Judge Seybert granted the motion to dismiss against the individually named defendants, including Sheriff Vincent Demarco and two other senior county officials, she granted the class leave to reassert their claims against the individuals in the future. 

E.D.N.Y., Index No. 11-cv-02602 (JS) (GRB), (direct) 

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