People housed at Suffolk County Correctional Facilities – whether or not they have been convicted of a crime – are forced to live amidst overflowing sewage, chronic overcrowding, rodent and insect infestations, pervasive mold and rust, and other deplorable and dehumanizing conditions, according to a federal class action lawsuit filed today by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP. “Nobody should be forced to live in the sickening conditions that exist in the Suffolk County jails,” said Amol Sinha, director of the NYCLU’s Suffolk County Chapter. “Raw sewage bubbles from floor drains, rodents and roaches infest the kitchens, black mold covers the showers – it shocks the conscience. That county officials have allowed such horrendous conditions to persist for years is simply shameful.” The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of those currently and previously detained at two Suffolk County Correctional Facilities: Riverhead, a maximum/medium security jail, and Yaphank, a minimum security jail. Suffolk County and its sheriff, Vincent DeMarco, are named as defendants along with other officials responsible for the 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 in an adjoining cell, a circumstance known 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 many men violently ill.