To the Editor: On May 12, Federal Monitor Steve Martin submitted a scathing 323-page report, his 11th to date, lambasting the NYC Correction Department.
Martin, who was hired in 2015 to oversee the Nunez Consent Judgment, took no prisoners and relentlessly imputed blame for the rising amount of force against inmates to everyone and everything including, but not limited to, correction officers, supervisors, Wardens, Chiefs, past jail culture, training, poor leadership, lack of de-escalation skill and staff's "hyper-confrontational behavior."
He didn't attach any culpability to himself or inmates.
Many inmates are non-violent and abide by jail rules and regulations, and all inmates must be treated with care, decency and respect. Furthermore, force must not be excessive or unnecessary.
However, a percentage of NYC's inmates are dangerous predators, and some others blatantly resist authority. These groups are most directly responsible for DOC's soaring rate of force. Often their violent behavior requires force by staff to restore order and keep people safe.
For example, according to Martin's report, last year 104 of the approximately 4,500 inmates were involved in 1,588 of the 6,100 uses-of-force. That's about .02 percent of the inmate population responsible for causing 26 percent of the force used.
Yet, instead of acknowledging that recalcitrant inmates are to blame for much of the force utilized, Martin cited staff not addressing the inmate's needs as the cause. He refuses to see inmate lawlessness; therefore it doesn't exist.
Further, Martin does not address the fact that since 2015, he has issued dozens of recommendations to DOC on how to eliminate or at least reduce force, yet unruly inmates have become consistently more defiant toward authority, regularly challenging uniformed staff. As a result, the amount of force used has increased incrementally every year, skyrocketing 183 percent from 2016 to 2020.
Ironically, while never calling for any corrective action against the inmates for their violence, assaultive behavior and lawlessness, Martin aggressively advocates for immediate corrective action against uniformed staff in the form of harsh discipline, suspension and termination.
There has been very little progress and no reform in DOC under the parti pris oversight of Steve Martin. Instead, helter-skelter prevails. Nonetheless, Martin and his coterie have succeeded in one thing—guaranteeing job security for themselves.
I submit that the requirements in the Nunez Judgment are unrealistic, impracticable and extremely difficult to adhere to, and in the alternative that Martin has utterly failed in overseeing its application.
The Nunez Consent Judgment has been in operation for almost six years with little success. When will the powers that be realize that it and DOC's use-of-force policies are not working?
NYC must petition the courts to re-evaluate and modify the Nunez decree.
Retired Assistant Deputy Warden
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