Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Audit Criticizes Financial Management of Nassau County Jail Commissary

An audit performed by the Nassau County, New York Comptroller’s Office, following the standards of the New York State Commission of Corrections, or NYSCOC, and pursuant to state law, has criticized the financial management of the county’s jail commissary.  The jail commissary is customarily the only place where prisoners can purchase snacks, postage, writing materials, and toiletries not provide by the institution, books about $1.3 million in sales a year.

According to NY state law, all of the profits of jail commissary operation are to be invested in prisoners’ “welfare and rehabilitation,” which generally means televisions, sports equipment, books, and other amenities.  Most are meant to be self-supporting, or perhaps earn a small profit, generally not a problem in most institutions.  However, this has not been the case in the Nassau County Jail, because of shortcomings the audit identified.

According to the audit, “the correctional center purchased many items for sale without competitive bidding,” commissary staff often failed to get firm quotations for some of the most popular items on sale, and items purchased from suppliers often came in at a higher price than originally quoted, all of which contributed to increased costs of doing business. The audit also noted that jail employees purchasing inventory often did so directly, bypassing the county’s normal purchasing procedures, and leading to possible abuse.

Additionally, there were apparently inadequate financial control on the expenditure of funds from commissary operations, resulting in the jail spending more on prisoner recreation and rehabilitation than what was available in the commissary fund. Also, there was evidence that commissary monies were also used to purchase items for use by the institution, rather than prisoners, including garment bags, medical bunk beds, and suicide blankets.

The audit also showed that despite the expectation that the commissary would be self-supporting, the county still had to transfer funds from the jail’s general operating account to cover some of the salaries of commissary employees, in the amount of $122,000.  The transfer of funds apparently was carried out without any formal written policy in place that covered such transfers.

“The Correctional Center’s accounting system is antiquated, and lack key commissary reporting capabilities,” the audit concluded, and went on to identify other financial problems, including weakness in reconciliation of bank account information and verification of deliveries and payments of vendors, resulting in a high risk of overpayment.

Comptroller George Maragos said, “the numerous management issues found at the commissary are extremely troublesome and need immediate attention, and to the extent that these issues may imply greater concern with the jail administration will be looked into.”

Jail officials, although conceding that better financial controls at the jail commissary were necessary, defended its purchasing practices, stating that it had done business in that fashion for twenty years.  Nonetheless, Sheriff Michael Sposato indicated that he would review the audit’s findings with a view to making improvements in the jail commissary’s operations.


See: Report.


See also:  “Audit: Poor Financial Controls at Nassau jail,” by Robert Brodsky, Newsday, December 22, 2013.


As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login