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History of the Correctional Facility

     The first Suffolk County Jail was erected in 1727 on the north side of Main Street in Riverhead at the site of former Perkins store. A bronze plaque placed there by the Suffolk County Historical Society marks the site. This jail was severely damaged during the Revolutionary War and had to be rebuilt in 1784. Continuous enlargements and improvements were made throughout the next 75 years until a new site on Griffing Avenue was purchased and a court house and jail built of brick and stone was erected in 1855. This jail was a separate two story octagonal stone building located at the rear of the court house. The cells were also arranged in an octagon, each cell going back almost to a point with the floor resembling the shape of a piece of pie. It was enlarged in 1881, adding a third floor to this unusually shaped building.

     In 1911, a new jail was built after the state deemed the octagon jail "unsanitary, overcrowded, and a breeding place for immorality - a relic of the dark ages, a disgrace and a stigma upon the county." The massive stone blocks used in the old octagon jail can be found around the flag pole at the current Riverhead Correctional Facility, comprising a monument to fallen officers and deputies.

     The 1911 jail was designed to hold 136 inmates but quickly grew to over 200 inmates with overflow housed in the Nassau County Jail at $4.50 per inmate per day. Once again, age and overcrowding turned the 1911 building into a substandard jail falling short of the minimum standards set by the State Corrections Department.

     In 1961, the Yaphank Penal Farm Building (Honor Farm) was opened. The main reason for erecting this facility was to relieve the overcrowding at the County Jail in Riverhead. However, by locating this building in close proximity to the County Farm, the county saved the time and expense of transporting the inmate farm workers to and from the Riverhead Jail on a daily basis.

     Work on the Suffolk County Farm was performed almost exclusively by the inmates. This provided the men with a healthy environment and a sense of self-respect. Moreover, the farm provided about 80% of all food consumed at the Suffolk County Jail, the Children's Shelter, the County Infirmary, and the Honor Farm Annex itself.

     The 1965 inspection of the Suffolk County Jail, conducted by the State Commission of Correction, pointed out the need for construction of a new jail with enlarged and modern facilities. Groundbreaking for the new jail took place on March 15, 1966. Three years later, on January 24, 1969, the state certified the cells for occupancy. However, due to lack of adequate staff, the new jail was not operational until August 28, 1969, when the 190 inmates from the 1911 jail were transferred to the new modern jail.

     In an effort to boost the morale of the department, in 1977 Sheriff Finnerty requested that the name of the Suffolk County Jail be changed. Therefore, by an act of the Suffolk County Legislature, the jail was renamed the Suffolk County Correctional Facility, while the Honor Farm was renamed the Suffolk County Minimum Security Correctional Facility.

     In 1980, due to ongoing overcrowding, a 200 bed addition was approved for the Minimum Security Facility in Yaphank. Overcrowding continued, however, despite this addition, and a 300 additional cells were added to the Riverhead Correctional facility creating a Medium Security addition.

     In 2013, a major addition was added to the Correctional Facility in Yaphank including six pods consisting of 60 cells each. A modern medical unit, medical housing unit, visiting area, and booking and processing unit were also added. This changed the facility from the Suffolk County Minimum Security Correctional Facility to the Yaphank Correctional Facility. Both the Yaphank and the Riverhead Correctional Facilities could now house inmates of all three security classifications.

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