Elias Husamudeen








NEW YORK-OCTOBER 11, 2016--“Ending Punitive Segregation is another way of saying it is open season on correction officers and an invitation for inmates to increase their terrorist attacks on correction officers, civilians, and other inmates. This administration continues to put their desire to be “first in the nation” instead of being the smartest in the nation, when it comes to ensuring the safety of staff and inmates alike.

Slashings and Stabbings are up 66%. Inmate on Inmate fights are up 25% and serious injuries from inmate on inmate assaults are up 8%. What logic, what reasoning, is behind this decision to end punitive segregation? They also brag that no other state has accomplished comparable punitive segregation reforms for inmates aged 19-21. The most recent assaults on correction officers were committed by inmates in this age group and are routinely assaulted by this population. Maybe other states haven’t ended punitive segregation because they are not in denial about the violence caused by this population.

The last correction officer who was punched in his eye was assaulted by one of the inmates in this population in the very same program that the Commissioner and the Mayor are boasting about. This violence that is perpetrated by the very inmates that are driving up these violence stats. According to the administration’s own press release, Young Adults ages 18-21 comprise 10-12% of the jail population but commit a third of the violence in the City’s jails. Now, without punitive segregation, this small population will end up committing more than half of the violence in the jails by next year. Ending punitive segregation will only cripple our officers’ ability to fight crime in the jails and to protect themselves from being assaulted.

The de Blasio administration has made the New York City’s Police Department’s efforts to bring crime down to “historic lows” one of the central hallmarks of the mayor’s tenure and presumably, this will be one of the pillars of his upcoming re-election campaign. In fact, in almost every media response from City Hall the administration’s reduction in crime is ubiquitous.

As New York’s second-largest law enforcement union in the City of New York, COBA is acutely aware of the importance of reducing crime and our members our on the front lines of crime fighting in our nation’s second largest jail system. In the past year alone, we have intercepted hundreds of weapons from entering our jail facilities, infiltrated the most dangerous inmate gangs in our facilities, and interceded in vicious inmate on inmate attacks, and many times prevented inmates from literally killing one another. Just last week two correction officers assigned to the Otis M. Bantum Center, one of the largest jails on Rikers Island, were the victims of an inmate’s attempt to assault another inmate. While the inmates involved were protected, ultimately it was two correction officers who were sent to the emergency room to be treated for their injuries. The incident at OBCC is not an anomaly. In fact it is quite the norm. Violence is not only a reality but the dramatic increase in violence has morphed into a full blown crime wave that you Mayor de Blasio, as this City’s Chief Executive Officer and a champion of jail reform, cannot continue to ignore.

The Mayor’s own recent Mayoral Management Report confirms this. I cite page 62 of the Report from the Department of Correction which reveals that “Compared to the same time last year, the number of slashings and stabbings increased by 66 percent, from 32 to 53 incidents. In addition, inmate on inmate fights rose by 25 percent, leading to a 40 percent increase in the overall rate of violent incidents per 1,000 ADP, from 34.5 to 48.2 per 1,000 ADP. These incidents resulted in an eight percent increase in serious injuries from inmate on inmate altercations, up to 108 from 100 last year.” Furthermore, while the administration favors the cherry picking approach of only examining a couple facilities where assaults on staff declined slightly, the reality is that well over 600 correction officers were assaulted just within the last year. That is a staggering number and certainly not a measurement that reflects crime is down by any measure in our jails. If you were to visit COBA’s Facebook page on any given day you will find the number of COs assaulted and those who were sent to the Emergency Room.

A fourteen point plan heavy on programs and light on safety and security will never turn around these numbers and it will not create the real results that might make it into a City Hall media talking point.  

Nor will a fourteen point plan heal the wounds of the officers who were so viciously slashed, stabbed, and beaten that they will likely wear these scars for the rest of their lives.

Our members are wounded, spread thin, and increasingly being called on to do much more with virtually no support. How does the biggest city in the nation turn its backs on over 8,000 men and women, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, and ask them to put themselves in harm’s way to keep this city safe when the city fails miserably to keep them safe? If there was ever a tale of two cities, it could not be more evident in its two approaches to crime fighting. In one approach with the NYPD every possible tool is provided to police officers to their precinct commanders. Their academy is cutting edge with the latest technology and new legislation is regularly passed by the City Council to give them the resources they need to protect themselves in their fight on crime. But that’s simply not the reality in the other approach to the city’s fight on crime. When it comes to the crime wave we see in the jails we could not be less adequately equipped, more under staffed and poorly trained to deal with the terrorists we face each and every day.

Again, no outside consultants are needed to discern the correlation between this crime wave in the jails and the rise of mentally ill inmates incarcerated in the city’s jails. I refer back to page 62 the Mayor’s Mayoral Management Report. “Since Fiscal 2011, the Department has experienced a steady increase in the percentage of inmates with a mental health diagnosis. Currently comprising 42 percent of DOC’s population, this group requires more access to health services and often, in the case of those with a serious diagnosis (10.9 percent), special housing”. The bottom line is mentally ill inmates who are prone to violent behavior should and need to be in a metal health facility but the city’s broken criminal justice system simply can’t make that happen.

At a recent talk at New York Law School's "Citylaw" breakfast ' Commissioner Ponte admitted to New York City running the largest mental health hospital on the East Coast. He stated that DOC is "managing well" with mentally ill offenders.  To the extent that certain new programs may be experiencing positive outcomes for a few inmates this claim may be true. That said, it does not take into account the majority of mentally ill, or the extremely violent.  At a recent Board of Correction meeting held on September 13, 2016, the DOC was sharply criticized for failing in managing the mental health needs of inmates. The DOC/HHC partnership 2 seems to  be  standing  still  or  moving at a snail's pace at getting those in need  to their  appointments.  And nowhere in the discourse are persistent violent offenders with no chance at being rehabilitated in one of the model units touted by Correctional Health.  

With the largest mental health institution on the East Coast, why is it that the mentally ill inmates are not being diagnosed and appropriately housed in a mental health facility where illness may be treated? The mental health staff  at  the  DOC  (whether Corizon or HHC) has been unable to grapple with these most violent inmates - unrealistically expecting minimally trained Correction Officers rather than mental health professionals according to BOC minimum standards. It would appear that violence trumps mental health consideration (although the BOC disagrees). However, we cannot properly address this population since the Mayor has committed New York City to removing punitive segregation as an option to persistently violent inmates. How then is it that someone with the record of violence can continue to refuse treatment and lash out at will? Why have we not investigated medical solutions to these violent mentally unsound individuals? The violence caused, as well as destruction to city property exhibited, are NOT the actions of individuals NOT suffering from mental health problems. Can we not find mental health solutions such as they do with violent inmates in other jurisdictions?

Unless this administration can find answers to these questions, any hope of winning the war on crime in our jails is lost. The inmates, mentally ill, or otherwise, have become adept at using the failed criminal justice system to their advantage. Knowing that he will remain in the DOC's custody, the cunning, violent felon will continue to lash out to keep the status quo.  The  smart  systematic  response  would  be to  fast track his initial prosecution and obtain a guilty verdict - sending the offender upstate where he can be properly housed (since punitive segregation is no longer an option in the jails)  or out of state to face charges in that  jurisdiction.

We need to remove repeated terrorists from our jails and placed in a different jurisdiction NOW! Stop telling us help is on the way and that reform is working. Stop telling policy makers like the Board of Correction that thanks to some bogus programs our members feel safer. STOP PRETENDING THAT THE CRIME WAVE IN THE JAILS DOES NOT EXIST.

So for the reasons outlined above, the COBA is urging Mayor de Blasio to finally apply the same priority, resources, and tools to our war on crime inside the jails, as you would to the pubic war on crime which the administration touts daily. Unless the administration adopts one uniform strategy to fighting crime on the street and behind bars, there can be no victory for public safety in the nation’s largest city.