EXCLUSIVE: Correction boss reminds jail staff they can use force to stop inmate violence

By: 
REUVEN BLAU

Note to jail staff: You can use force on inmates to thwart violent attacks in city jails.

City Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte reminded jail bosses in an unusual memo that officers can use force to break up fights and slashing attacks behind bars.

The Daily News obtained a copy of the “teletype order” sent to commanding officers last week.

“In recent weeks staff have encountered inmates in possession of weapons who were attempting to or who have caused injury to another inmate and were refusing orders to cease their actions and drop their weapon,” Ponte says in the memo. “All staff are reminded that force may be used against an inmate.”

Ponte said officers can use force when they need to defend themselves or to prevent an escape. They can also use force to stop inmates from damaging property or harming themselves.

But physical force should only be used as a last resort “and when there is no practical alternative available to prevent serious physical injury,” the order says.

The order comes as the department struggles to rework its use-of-force policy as part of a broad federal settlement designed to curtail officer abuse of inmates.

City correction officers are also under scrutiny, as the inmate-on-inmate bloodshed persists. The number of stabbings and slashings increased from 131 in 2015 to 155 in 2016.

On Thursday, Correction Officers Benevolent Association President Elias Husamudeen slammed the commissioner’s memo.

“It is the most confusing thing to a correction officer,” he said. “You can use force but you can’t use it.”

A department spokesman said the memo was a routine reminder.

The use of force — though not explicitly mentioned in the memo — can include deadly force.

“The force must end when the threat is over or the inmate has been immobilized in a way that he no longer presents an immediate threat,” the order says.