Whenever a film or TV show needs to film in a prison location, the go-to place to scout is a decommissioned jail at the Nassau County Correctional Facility.
Located in East Meadow, Long Island, the NCCF is the working jail for Nassau County. For years, inmates were housed in the facility pictured. Once a state-of-the-art jail, it no longer meets modern standards and was shut down some time ago. In recent years, it has found a new use as a set for numerous films and television shows.
I’ve scouted the jail numerous times over the past year, and the sheriff’s office has always been more than accommodating in arranging tours. The jail is an excellent, flexible, and totally unique filming location, and the revenue from productions goes to Nassau County. To help spread the word, I asked permission to post some of my pictures here for other scouts, filmmakers, and interested parties to see.
Jails are stark, lonely, claustrophobic and frightening places. This might all seem painfully obvious, but you don’t realize how true it is until you tour one on an overcast day.
This is a parking lot for guards.
A few barbecues in the parking lot for the guards. I love the sign reading “Cafe Carucci” – wonder if he was a particularly good cook?
There are some great signage relics in the lot:
This sign in particular is amusing: NO dumping garbage HERE, in this ONE SPOT!
And this sign, at the entrance to the facility, seems pretty important:
When you get off the elevator, you find yourself in a hallway lined with pastel green/black trim doors.
Go down the hall and you’ll find yourself in the main cell block, consisting of four rows of grayish-white cells that seem to go on endlessly.
A second wall of bars separates the guard hallway from the cells:
The cells are small, each with its own toilet and sink (the older cells have porcelain, the newer have stainless steel). Each cell features a different configuration of beds. All are incredibly claustrophobic.
At the end of one cell block is this old desk, still covered in notebooks and ledgers from when the jail was an active facility.
This ancient device controls the cell doors, and incredibly, it STILL WORKS! My understanding is that you choose the cells, then turn the crank on the right to open or close the doors.
Old speaker system mounted in the hallways:
The windows are completely glazed over, preventing any view to the outside world. All that comes through is an unwavering harsh white light. Occasionally, pigeons will land outside the windows, stay a minute, then fly away. I can only imagine how torturous this must have been for inmates to watch:
The cell blocks are all double-tiered:
In addition to the main blocks, there are some really interesting alternate cells. This is the old solitary confinement. Each of the two rooms has a single jail cell:
With the lights off and the door closed, you do NOT want to spend much time here.
This is the female cell block. At some point in the 1970′s, the women were given colorful paint to brighten up their cells. This is the result:
A closer view:
This is a section of a cell block reserved for the most depraved of inmates. If you notice, I’m taking this picture through a layer of plexi-glass ala Silence of the Lambs. This was to protect guards and visitors from any feces, urine, semen, or other bodily fluids that might be flung.
This hallway connects the cell blocks to the cafeteria. In the middle of it is a guard’s booth:
You can’t get props as realistic as the worn chairs, the old rolodex, the 1970′s desks…
…or the killer stereo!
The cafeteria has fallen into disrepair, but could easily be fixed up to accommodate a mess hall scene (or other locations – an indoor workout room, for example).
This is where prisoners would get their meal trays:
This door leads to the guard’s cafeteria:
This is the old style of inmate table, which I’m told is an antique.
This is the rec yard, which is still used by the active jails. Filming is difficult but possible here:
A guard’s booth sits in one corner. Note that it can’t be entered from the yard.
A single basketball court sits in one corner:
The Nassau County Jail is a one-of-a-kind location, which can be used for just about any prison/jail scenario you can imagine. The facility is in excellent condition, and offers a very flexible schedule. Anyone interested in using the jail can contact the Nassau County Film Commission here for more information.
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