To the Editor: The politics of New York City and the policies of the Department Of Correction (DOC) have everyone losing in the NYC jails. And when I say losing, I mean inmate faces slashed with razors, sexual assaults, splashings with urine, dirty mop water, spoiled milk, spittings, beatdowns, etc.
The heads of the DOC claimed several years ago they would change the (jail) culture to comply with the current political culture. Additionally, a Federal Judge handed down a ruling that further tightened the restrictions on staff using force in dealing with violent or resistant inmates and increased the penalties for mistakes by our staff. Penalties for inmates for acts of violence, other crimes, and rule violations were dramatically reduced, often reduced to nothing. As a result of this, there is an increase in violence in the jails and especially assaults on staff.
Uniformed staff are losing because we are not able to do our jobs and are excessively disciplined for any mistake. We watch the inmates resist us every step of the way. They assault us, spit on us, splash us with regularity because there is little-to-no consequence. If we fight back, there are teams of people: investigators, Chiefs, Wardens, watching surveillance videos over and over looking for mistakes, looking to initiate charges, looking to take away vacation days and steady posts, or to initiate suspensions. Staff discipline keeps increasing as inmate discipline decreases.
A good number of the inmates are in jail because they made a mistake, committed a crime, maybe an isolated incident. They may not be predators or habitual criminals. They are on trial or awaiting trial. These inmates are regularly preyed upon by the more-aggressive inmates, the gang members, predator inmates. They are bullied, robbed, extorted, beaten up and sometimes slashed in the face with razors.
The DOC does not protect them. On the surface, it may seem like there is protection in the form of protective-custody housing for others, category housing, separation orders for major incidents. This protection is a paper shield.
There is little or no use of punitive segregation (solitary confinement). The gangs manipulate the DOC constantly. The gangs are so influential and powerful that the DOC, unintentionally, encourage inmates to join gangs. Perhaps for protection, or maybe for status and power. They do have power, much more than they did before.
The violent predator inmates assault officers by spitting on them, punching them, etc. Sometimes they even slash officers with razors. The consequences they face do not discourage them. They assault, rob, slash, and spit on other inmates; the consequences they face for those attacks do not discourage them. They find reasons to sue the city and are quickly offered money to settle the case. They manipulate the DOC regarding where they are housed, what time they report for court, and in some cases, which jail they are transferred to.
We the taxpayers pay for everything. We will pay for the closing of Rikers Island and relocation of the jails. We pay for all the lawsuits that the inmates bring. The city fights hardly any of them. The city’s quick settlement of cases is so extensive that inmates will occasionally slash each other willingly so they can sue and get paid.
The biggest bill of all will be the cost of closing Rikers Island and relocating the jails to the boroughs. This with cost us hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions, with the implied promise that the jail violence and other problems will disappear. The jail insiders know that there is no truth to this. Just look at the jails in Manhattan and Brooklyn. They are brimming with violence and chaos.
When I started this job over 20 years ago we, the uniformed staff, were in charge of the jails. We were true authority figures. We were in control. Today, things are very different. The culture has changed, and the criminals are celebrating.
Assistant Deputy Wardens/ Deputy Wardens Assoc.
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