Joseph Russo, who a year ago was chosen to head the Assistant Deputy Wardens/Deputy Wardens Association after Faisal Zouhbi retired in mid-term, was elected without opposition to a full two-year term Nov. 16 during a membership meeting at Antun’s in Queens Village.
Other incumbent members of the union’s board were given new terms, which take effect Jan. 1, without a challenge, but there will be an election held next month to fill a vacancy for secretary.
A Forceful Advocate
Mr. Russo has emerged as an outspoken critic of changes in the jail system that he believes have largely exempted assaultive inmates from meaningful discipline while his members have had to tread carefully or risk being penalized even in legitimate use-of-force situations. He has also joined with other jail-union leaders representing Captains and Correction Officers in questioning the city’s plan to close Rikers Island and shift inmates now housed there to four smaller jails, one in each borough except Staten Island.
He told his rank and file after gaining the full term, “This is the best thing I have done in this department in my 23 years. Thank you for choosing me for your representative.”
The other union officers remaining in their posts are Vice President Tia Cox, Treasurer Yvette Douglas and Deputy Wardens Representative Joseph Caputo. The nominees for secretary are Charles Olawamiri and Herns Mitton, with ballots expected to go out in early December.
Incumbent delegates were also given new terms without opposition. In the case of the one representing top supervisors at the Horizon Juvenile Center, which has experienced problems with violence since the Correction Department under the state’s Raise the Age Law took effect Oct. 1, 2018 and first 16-year-olds and more recently 17-year-olds were transferred there from Rikers, Mr. Russo alluded to the scheduled transfer of correction officers of all ranks out of the facility at the end of this year.
An Uncertain Transition
At that point, Juvenile Counselors represented by Local 371 of District Council 37 are scheduled to take full responsibility for security, even though representatives of the local have questioned whether a full transition is realistic given remaining problems controlling the young detainees.
That was why Mr. Russo said of what could be a brief period of service for his union’s delegate at Horizon, “Until the last day we need him. And maybe after.”
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