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Second Suffolk County Correctional Facility Inmate Dies

Officials say "no incidents or accidents" involved in recent death.

An inmate at the Suffolk County Correctional Faciltiy in Riverside died on Sunday, but officials say no accidents or other unusual events contributed to his passing.

Flanders resident Joseph Smith, 49, died at the jail on Sunday at 12:56 p.m., said Michael Sharkey, chief of staff at Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco's office.

While no cause of death has yet been determined, Sharkey said, "There were no incidents or accidents."

A full investigation by the medical examiner's office is ongoing, he said. 

Sharkey said Smith was "unresponsive" on Sunday and attended to by medical staff before being transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Smith was being held in jail after a September altercation; Riverhead Town Police responded to a call at 500 Lincoln Street at approximately 5:17 p.m. on September 12 after a report of alleged menacing.

Riverhead resident William Kowalski, 27, reported having an alleged physical altercation with Smith at that location. According to police, Kowalski alleged that the altercation culminated with Smith firing a .32 caliber handgun at him. Police say Kowalski was not struck by the bullet.

Smith allegedly fled the scene before police arrived. Information was forwarded to Southampton Town police, who subsequently located Smith outside his Flanders residents.

Members of the Riverhead Town police responded to Flanders, where they arrested Smith and charged him with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the first degree, and menacing in the second degree.

Smith was held overnight at the Riverhead Town police department and arraigned in Riverhead Town justice court. He was remanded to the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in lieu of $75,000 bail.

The death was the second in recent months at the facility; in June, the family of an inmate  alleged he died because he choked to death before receiving medical care.

In early April, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of over 100 detainees in federal court against Suffolk County, claiming inhumane conditions at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead violate the constitutional rights of those detained there.

Citing a list of complaints - including overcrowding, raw sewage in sleeping areas and beyond, tainted drinking water, prolonged exposure to mold and vermin, and more - the lawsuit seeks to remedy conditions it cites as inhumane and award financial damages those exposed to the reported conditions.

“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.”

Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for County Executive Steve Bellone, did not immediately comment on the recent death at the facility.

kevin summerlib February 05, 2013 at 01:54 AM
Was in riverhead and fesces and urine in my sink when i got in my cell. When the c.o came around to open a window cause of a smell, i told him it was from the sink, he just laghed
Nancy Evans Figat April 06, 2013 at 12:58 PM
God has a specials place in Hell reserved for those who participate in the type of sadistic, taunting and outright abse that occurs in that facility. I pray for the inmates that they make it out of there safe and sound. Many inmates are young from broken homes have no love or support. God help them.
Nancy Evans Figat April 06, 2013 at 01:06 PM
I had a recent opportunity to tour the bowles of this HellHole.It as close as I can imagine to Satans Digs. The C.o.. the Devils helpers. Pitchforks and prods.They really do laugh at and taunt the inmates. Very SICK individuals the C.O.S . They are very likely the Slow ones in their classses when they went to school. As their vocabulary is far worse than that of the inmates. Obvioulsly they don't read much ( except the Newspaper which seems to take them 8 hours to read. The swearing is quite the opposite of impressive. It shows where they come from , how they were raised. Ignorant! Stupid individuals...given power over the vulnerable and helpless. Dangerous!

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