06/02/15 6:00am
06/02/2015 6:00 AM
(Credit: MSNBC)

(Credit: MSNBC)

There was a moment during Saturday’s premiere of MSNBC’s “Lockup Extended Stay: Long Island,” the new reality series filmed at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, that offered a truly unique look at the inside of our local jail.

Two inmates — a woman facing a relatively short prison sentence and a man staring at life inside a tin can — are pronounced man and wife by Southampton Town Clerk Sunday Schiermeier, who announces, “You may now kiss the bride.”

After a few seconds of rare intimacy — they met only three months earlier inside that same jail — they are told to return to their stations.

They are now man and wife, but they’re inmates above all else.

It’s this moment that best illustrates why “Lockup” makes for great television, even if it merely exploits the unique circumstances of some of the jail’s more colorful inmates and will do little to improve their overall place in society.

A more informative and better intended show might feature inmates after they are released from prison or cover subjects dealing with Long Island’s heroin problem away from our jail. Like most reality shows, the primary goal of “Lockup” is to entertain.

I went into this review fully expecting to blast the show for its exploitative nature, but found it to still have enough heart and journalistic value to keep me interested. I will watch again.

One of the chief concerns we heard from readers since first reporting that the show would air this week was that it would portray Riverhead in a negative light. Of course, since it’s a show about life in jail, it’s hard to imagine it serving as a booster for tourism. The show is not meant to be a reflection on the people of Riverhead or Suffolk County, but rather a small portion of the prison population.

After one episode, “Lockup” has told us nothing about Riverhead or Riverside, except for a few brief glimpses of landmarks like the Suffolk Theater or the water tower. In fact, none of the three inmates featured in the first episode, “Sufferin’ County,” is from the East End.

Aisha Figueroa, the bride in the first episode, was arrested by police in Huntington for a robbery in which she allegedly fired a gun at a gas station attendant. She wed Chris Colbert of the Bronx, who is described as a high-ranking Bloods gang member awaiting trial for second-degree murder. The concept of Ms. Figueroa marrying someone who may never spend another day on the outside is explored in the episode, but not at any great depth.

Instead, we’re shown the actual ceremony and told how prison weddings work. Ms. Figueroa’s mother, one of the two witnesses permitted under jail rules, is shown being asked to remove her jewelry and even her bra before entering the jail.

“It has underwire in it,” corrections officer Neil MacDonald explains. “In here, that’s a dangerous instrument.”

Perhaps the episode’s most poignant moments involve the third featured inmate, Tyerance Mickey of the Bronx. Also a Bloods gang member, we’re told he’s in jail for charges of robbery, assault and murder — online prison records show he was actually convicted of robbery, assault and criminal possession of a weapon — and was awaiting transport to an upstate prison. He was originally being held on Riker’s Island, but was moved to Suffolk County because he was involved in too many fights there. He said he’s been a gang member since he was 10 years old.

In the episode, Mr. Mickey, a violent criminal who has spent half his life in a jail cell, is shown during a rare visit with his wife’s children, encouraging them to stay out of trouble. In another scene, he tells young gang members to get out of the lifestyle before it’s too late.

Online prison records show that both Mr. Mickey and Ms. Figueroa have since been shipped to upstate prisons. She’s eligible for parole next year. He’s facing between four and 10 years.

In a perfect world, we’d get more of these characters. But this is the television world and the trailer for the show promises to give us new characters and more violence in the coming weeks.

At least this week’s episode provided us with a handful of tender moments and a few glimpses of the harsh reality of prison. Will Mr. Mickey abandon his gang member past for a better life, as he promises? Will Ms. Figueroa and Mr. Colbert ever spend time together in a world where their meetings aren’t shared with guards?

We’ll probably never know what becomes of any of these three inmates, but their present circumstances tell us a happy ending isn’t likely.

The first episode may have been a pleasant surprise, but that’s television, not real life.

grantCMYKThe author is the executive editor of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at gparpan@timesreview.com or 631-354-8046.

05/25/15 6:00am
JO ANN KIRKLAND PHOTO

(Credit: Jo Ann Kirkland)

One morning last week, Glenn Addario left his home in Coram and got to work about 7:45 a.m. His first task of the morning was digging a grave.

At Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, Glenn checked in at maintenance headquarters and picked up a “dig slip” that told him where he’d start his day. The paper had coordinates he’d follow to locate the gravesite within the 365 acres, where more than 346,000 veterans and their close relatives are buried.  (more…)

05/16/15 2:00pm
05/16/2015 2:00 PM

File

The basement here at the News-Review’s office probably isn’t all that different from your own.

It’s cold and musty. There are some dark corners, some old furniture, books and gym equipment from eras gone by scattered throughout. The insulation and duct work is exposed.

It’s pretty much your average basement.

But downstairs in the basement of the Riverhead News-Review (or, as it was previously known, the News-Review of Riverhead) are six file cabinets you won’t find anywhere else in the world — just like that box stuffed away in the corner of your own basement with those silly old photos of you and your siblings. (more…)

05/13/15 5:46pm
05/13/2015 5:46 PM

Is Main Street safe? No it is not. There are many factors that lead to this dilemma, just as there are many solutions needed to correct it. Let’s start with the recent rash of armed robberies. Downtown businesses are struggling to begin with, and they work very hard at becoming part of the success story that this town truly needs for its revitalization. Having armed thugs walk into a business and forcibly demand money is an extremely frightening and dangerous situation for any local business owner. Just ask Barth’s Drug Store. There needs to be more police presence downtown – period.  This does not mean simply enlisting one part time police officer to walk around. It means confronting the problem with fully trained professional police officers, properly equipped to handle this growing problem. (more…)

05/12/15 10:02am
05/12/2015 10:02 AM
A truck with an oversized load on Main Road in East Marion. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A truck with an oversized load on Main Road in East Marion. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

On April 27, the Town of Riverhead won a very significant battle in the war to keep the East End the last rural area on Long Island when billionaire John Catsimatidis withdrew his oil terminal’s application to expand into a full-fledged gasoline distribution center.

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05/10/15 8:00am
05/10/2015 8:00 AM

Although Mother Nature doesn’t want to let go of winter, we are busy, like other boaters, prepping our vessel for the upcoming season. We were very lucky to have found our home on the beautiful Peconic River. It’s the perfect spot for us. We can fi sh the river and head out to the bays and beyond, enjoying Long Island’s waterways.

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