Correction officers' union files suit claiming board doesn't protect jail employees


Mayor de Blasio has put city correction officers in danger by failing to remove unqualified and biased members of a jail oversight board, a lawsuit by the Correction Officers Benevolent Association charges.

Union leaders have long argued that the city Board of Correction does more to protect inmates than officers.

Eight of the nine board members have zero law-enforcement experience, and some are biased because they work for organizations that do business with the city, the lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court Thursday alleges.

In 2015, the board eliminated solitary confinement for inmates under 22 and strictly limited its use for the entire jail population. That move — supported by inmate advocates and City Hall — enraged union leaders.

They say it has led to a spike in violence, including serious assaults against officers.

The board has a total “disregard for employee safety and security,” the lawsuit says.

Inmate advocates cite research showing the 23-hour-a-day punishment causes serious mental damage, especially among younger detainees. They also note that violence spiked towards the end of the Bloomberg administration even though there was a near record high number of inmates in solitary.

The union’s lawsuit points out the Correction Department created an Enhanced Supervision Housing unit for inmates who act out. There, inmates are given added counseling and programing.

But that area “contains no punitive component” and there’s “an arbitrary cap of 250 inmates” that can be placed inside the unit, the lawsuit says. Additionally, adolescents and young adult inmates are barred from the area.

“Instead, inmates prone to violence are placed in programs with a reward component, programs not available to those inmates who refrain from violent activities,” the lawsuit says.

The programs include pizza parties, guest speakers like former National Football League star Colin Kaepernick, drama lessons from the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, video games and cable television.

The board has also pushed hard to limit how long young inmates with a history of violence can be restrained to desks while they are outside their cells.

The department began to use the desks without any written rules or regulations, board members pointed out at the time.

Union President Elias Husamudeen also took offense at the board’s recent report on a major increase in jail lockdowns.

The number of lockdowns in city jails has spiked by 32% over the last year, the board noted.

There were a total of 2,433 lockdowns last year, compared to 1,849 in 2016, according the Board review.

But the report fails to note that the uptick came at a time when solitary confinement was drastically reduced, the suit notes.

“It is clear that that the BOC’s sanctioning of this report is a product of its bias and disregard for the safety of correction officers,” the suit alleges.

The board has nine public hearings each year and has oversight over the city’s jails. Board members must sign off on all policy changes.

Bad blood between the board and Husamudeen exploded early this year when a board member called the labor leader “a piece of s--t” during a public meeting.

“They are guilty of dereliction of duty, neglect, abuse, and bias, as demonstrated in the continued jail violence that has soared under their watch,” Husamudeen said in a statement issued Thursday. “We will take this suit as far as possible to force the city to fulfill its legal obligation to keep the men and women who patrol the toughest precincts in New York safe.”

A representative for the Correction Department referred a reporter to the city’s Law Department for comment.

“We will review the legal claims and respond accordingly,” said Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci.

A board spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.