To the Editor:
Even as Correction Officers languish in the decline of the Correction Department, they still persist steadfastly patrolling the jails in obscurity. They are unsung heroes.
Yet from Headquarters at Bulova we continue to see signs of decay. After five years of Mayor de Blasio’s so-called jail reforms, a news article published on April 16, 2019, stated that DOC did not report more than 1,000 inmate fights in a three-month period according to a DOI investigation. https://nypost.com/2019/04/16/over-1k-inmate-fights-went-unreported-in-city-jails-doi/
In addition, a recent Federal discrimination lawsuit against DOC, filed by three high-ranking jail officials alleging racial discrimination and manipulation of violence statistics, was settled by NYC for $275,000. https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-doc-brass-discrimination-settlement-20190322-us6uejerf5awzcr5dlfb75mfva-story.html
This behavior by management is symptomatic of the disorder in DOC under Cynthia Brann.
Based on the allegation in the lawsuit, it appears that this administration prefers fealty over integrity.
The alleged manipulation of violence statistics was likely an attempt to hide the fact that the policies implemented by DOC to reduce inmate violence have failed and actually caused an increase in inmate violence.
It was reported in the media that the aforementioned lawsuit alleged a plaintiff was “berated for not covering up the violence.” Further, the lawsuit alleged that then-Deputy Commissioner Brann “intentionally tried to cover up the violence within Rikers Island….”
Attempts to censor the truth are indicative of disingenuous leaders who care more about the appearance of safety than actual safety. Covering up violence, manipulating statistics and submitting specious records do nothing to make jails safer. Instead, this deceptive behavior actually makes the jails even more dangerous because it provides a false sense of security while inmate violence continues to flourish in DOC.
Under Commissioner Brann. DOC has become exponentially worse and its nadir has arrived, manifesting itself daily. Brann, a political mercenary, will be remembered in infamy in Correction annals watching from her bower at Bulova as correction officers were not only attacked and injured by inmates but also criticized by politicians and condemned as villains by special interest groups.
I venture to say that within the last five years under Mayor de Blasio’s administration, about 20 Correction Officers have been slashed or stabbed by inmates. In the 20 years that preceded de Blasio, few correction officers were stabbed or slashed.
You will not succeed as Commissioner when your response to virtually every controversial incident is to impute blame to subordinates and prefer departmental charges on uniformed staff in a feeble attempt to show others that you took some action.
I am not aware of Brann accepting responsibility for any failure in DOC or publicly supporting Correction Officers involved in disputed incidents. The buck stops at the jails and never comes close to Brann. It appears her ultimate concern is to stay poised on her bureaucratic tightrope that hovers over a safety net made up of 11,000 uniformed staff.
NYPD leadership understands the difficulties police officers face and publicly supports those involved in tough situations. Correction Officers face the same difficulties and even more scrutiny and deserve a Commissioner who will publicly support and defend them.
Today it appears that DOC uniformed staff is expendable. They are sometimes disciplined like sacrificial lambs to appease special-interest groups. Termination, suspension, departmental charges, criminal and civil liability constantly loom over them like a guillotine. All while the Commissioner is insulated from responsibility.
The jails are watching.
To my former colleagues who are part of DOC’s upper management and selflessly lead this agency despite all the obstacles, I commend you.
To the bosses who understand that it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of both staff and inmates, I applaud you.
To the managers who struggle to persevere while the sword of Damocles dangles over your head because you agree that enabling failed policies is not reform, I salute you.
You are the Correction experts, yet ironically you must follow orders from individuals who at best should be working for you. I empathize with you.
The next Commissioner will find the “black box” and easily determine the exact cause of DOC’s crash. I submit that the data will attribute the crash to “pilot error,” specifically Commissioner Brann’s lack of jail knowledge and experience, in addition to the Mayor’s detrimental policies that metastasized throughout DOC, stimulating inmate violence and crime while simultaneously paralyzing law and order.
Inevitably, there will be a new Commissioner, and Cynthia Brann will have left DOC much worse than she found it. It will take time to recover from this law-enforcement atrophy.
Closing Rikers is not the panacea the Mayor wants you to believe but rather only a ploy. It’s the deus ex machina that will make it possible to seize the land and annex Rikers to extend LaGuardia Airport, entrench hotels and eventually double-down on casinos locking up Rikers to become the next Las Vegas.
This is a ‘jackpot’ for billionaire developers and entrepreneurs, but it’s “snake eyes” for the taxpayers who will be saddled with the burden of paying tens of billions of dollars to build new jails in non-affluent communities chosen by politicians with little or no input from the residents. Don’t expect to see a new jail built at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 57th St. Closing Rikers and building new jails is a mistake and will collapse NYC’s economy if we see a recession.
In the meantime the worse DOC becomes, the more people foolishly buy into the Mayor’s plan to close Rikers instead of holding the Commissioner accountable and demanding common-sense policies to reduce inmate violence.
Sadly, it appears that the Mayor doesn’t care much about DOC. Could the reason for his lack of concern be because if DOC was properly led, successful and safe he would have no justification to close Rikers?
NYC Department of Correction
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