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COBA PRESIDENT ELIAS HUSAMUDEEN CITY COUNCIL TESTIMONY BEFORE THE FIRE & CRIMINAL JUSTICE SERVICES COMMITTEE
By: Elias Husamudeen September 26, 16. 20:00

 

COBA PRESIDENT ELIAS HUSAMUDEEN CITY COUNCIL TESTIMONY BEFORE THE FIRE & CRIMINAL JUSTICE SERVICES COMMITTEE

Elizabeth S. Crowley

Chairwoman

September 26, 2016

Good Afternoon Chairwoman Crowley and members of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice.

My name is Elias Husamudeen and I am the president of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, which is the second-largest law enforcement union in the City of New York. Our members, New York's Boldest, are responsible for the care, custody, and control of the inmate population in the nation's second-largest municipal jail system. 

I thank you for the opportunity to address this committee concerning the legislation that is being introduced today. With regards to Intro 1260, which would amend the administrative code of the City of New York, in relation to transporting inmates in the custody of the department of correction to all criminal court appearances, the COBA's position is consistent with our longstanding commitment to execute the safe transportation of inmates to their court appearances. However, there is one caveat. If our responsibilities are expanded under this bill, then it is only logical to expand the number of correction officers who would now be responsible for transporting many more inmates to a significantly greater number of court appearances.

I know that the members of this committee understand the security implications that are involved when transporting anywhere between 900-1,100 inmates daily back and forth through the Five Boroughs to the courts and back to their facilities. There is no room for error and correction officers perform this essential service every single day without any incidents. The criminal justice system depends on this seamless process in order to adjudicate the numerous court cases that are processed daily. To add a new requirement that would only increase the number of trips our officers would be required to make would have a major impact on the criminal justice system.

We have no issue making more trips with more inmates. However, it is incumbent upon this Council to hold the Department of Correction responsible for increasing the staffing levels that would be required to meet these new challenges. We cannot do more with less and our officers are already stretched too thin as it is.

Before this hearing ends, I would ask each of you to pledge that you will not pass this bill without ensuring that the men and women at the front lines have the resources they need to take on these additional challenges.

I also want to comment on Intro 1262 which would amend the administrative code of the City of New York, in relation to prohibiting the department of correction from producing inmates to court appearances in departmental uniforms.  We recently met with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Tish James to express a number of our security concerns regarding this proposal and we are grateful for their willingness to understand the basis for these concerns.

We have not, as yet, seen a detailed plan that would demonstrate how producing inmates in civilian clothes would prevent the concealment of weapons and contraband which we already struggle with when inmates are behind bars. In addition, if an inmate is presented before a Judge without a Jury present, it doesn’t matter whether the inmate is in a DOC uniform or not. Furthermore, it is important for the Council and the public to be reminded precisely why inmates are transported wearing DOC uniforms in the first place. If, God forbids, there is an accident and a department vehicle is compromised, enabling dozens of inmates to escape and pour out into the streets, wearing civilian clothes, they would be able to quickly assimilate and avoid capture. We need to maintain optimal security protocols at all times if we are asked to keep the public safe at all times. 

Our members' safety, as well as the public's safety must be paramount and this proposed legislation, as it currently stands, is deeply troubling.  We urge the Committee to oppose this measure until a more detailed plan, taking into account these security concerns is provided.

In closing, I want this Committee to address a crisis that is unfolding throughout the Department and which impacts hundreds of our members. More and more of our members, over 4,900 who are female and many of whom are single mothers, are being ordered to work triple overtime shifts which is unprecedented in the history of the Department and is also a direct threat to safety and security in the jails.

How can this agency ask correction officers to be away from their children for 72 hours straight without proper rest? How can this agency force law enforcement officers to miss meals during these punitive shifts? How does the Department even justify mandating triple overtime shifts when the inmate population has actually declined from last year? We are aware that DOC managers were here today and we ask this committee to pose these questions to them as a written follow up.

Just this past August, 335 correction officers were forced to work triple tours because of the numerous new programs the DOC has adopted. For example, in the George R. Vierno Center, the Secured Unit Program that began in July, there are only 7 inmates but yet there are 60 correction officers assigned to monitor them. In The Robert N. Davoren Center there is the Transition Restore Unit Program that requires 50-60 correction officers to monitor less than 10 inmates. Similar programs such as The Accelerated Program Unit, The Program Accelerated Clinical Effectiveness Unit and the Clinical Alternative to Punitive Segregation Program exists in The Anna M. Kross Center. And OBCC has The Enhanced Supervision Housing Program.  Because of the implementation of programs such as these, without proper staffing levels, we are firmly in support of Intro 1064 which would require the department to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs it utilizes. One would think that given the millions of dollars the Council allocates to the department that a robust mechanism to evaluate its programs would already exist.  This should already be in place. The City Council should move swiftly to address this immediately.

The COBA will continue to voice our members' concerns on these vital issues and we will work vigorously to assure that their safety and security is at the forefront of any legislation that this Council passes. It is outrageous to our members and their families that in this public dialogue about jail reform it always appears that the inmate population is the protected class, while the men and women on the front lines, NYC correction officers, are the forgotten class. We are here today to make sure that 9,000 men and women who patrol the toughest precincts in NYC, are not forgotten.

With that said, at this time, I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

 

Archive News

Elias Husamudeen president of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, which is the second-largest law enforcement union in the City of New York. Our members, New York's Boldest, are responsible for the care, custody, and control of the inmate population in the nation's second-largest municipal jail system.

By: Elias Husamudeen September 26, 16. 20:00

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By: Courtney Gross September 23, 16. 12:17

NEW YORK (WABC) -- There are new security concerns at Rikers Island after two inmates attacked two guards in what is being called a planned assault.

One of the attacks was caught on video.

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By: Tim Fleischer September 14, 16. 9:38

Days after Mayor de Blasio touted an "astonishing" turnaround at several units in Rikers Island, two inmates unleashed simultaneous attacks against correction officers in an apparent attempt to get transferred out of one of the specialized facilities, sources say.

Around the same time, an inmate was nearly killed after he was slashed in the neck in a different building at the troubled jail complex, capping a bloody Friday.

By: BY STEPHEN REX BROWN AND REUVEN BLAU September 13, 16. 11:26

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