The suspension of six Correction Officers after two attempted escapes by a Rikers Island inmate within a couple of days is just a coverup for “management failures,” the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association said.
Elias Husamudeen said Department of Correction brass, including Commissioner Cynthia Brann and Chief of Security Kenneth Stukes, should bear the brunt of any fallout from the attempted breakouts.
“We will not allow them to scapegoat our members who did nothing wrong and who are now being blamed for their management failures,” Mr. Husamudeen said in a statement.
Six Correction Officers, three assigned to the George R. Vierno Center and three to the North Infirmary Command, were suspended without pay for an undisclosed period of time, a spokesman for the union said.
The North Infirmary Command’s Warden, Kisa Smalls, has been reassigned, according to the New York Post.
In his first escape attempt, just after noon June 18, the inmate, Arthur Brown, walked to the corner of the George R. Vierno Center rec yard, scaled a perimeter fence, jumped into the East River channel separating the island compound and tried to swim away from the lock-up, presumably to the runway at LaGuardia Airport jutting into the channel just a few hundred feet away. He was quickly plucked from the choppy waters by nearby DOC officers, however.
Mr. Brown scaled a North Infirmary Command roof on his second attempt, June 21, but was quickly apprehended.
Mr. Husamudeen said “substantial upgrades” to some of the Rikers Island fencing indicate that it fell short of what was required.
“Correction Officers aren’t responsible for the physical barriers that maintain security,” he said. “So clearly these fences were inadequate for a long time, and these upgrades were well overdue.”
The DOC declined to name the officers. Citing the safety and security of both inmates and employees, it also refused to provide details on the fencing upgrades.
“Maintaining safety and security is our top priority, and we are conducting a thorough internal investigation and will use every measure and tool available to maintain secure facilities,” DOC Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Peter Thorne said in a statement.
Mr. Brown, the inmate, was initially jailed in May 2019 on felony assault charges. His next court date is scheduled for July 21, according to the DOC. Meanwhile, he will be restricted access to rec time outdoors “until he is no longer considered an escape risk,” the department said.
Attempted escapes from the notorious island jail are infrequent.
In July 2017, an inmate awaiting trial on burglary charges climbed a fence topped with barbed wire during a recreation period outside the Anna M. Kross Center as two other inmates distracted officers. He did not make it off the island.
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