CA Refutes Corrections Officers Union’s Claims of Safety Risks
October 29, 2014 Since 1844, the CA, a non-profit independent watchdog agency has been monitoring the conditions in the State’s prisons. Using its unique legislative mandate, the CA has reported its findings and made recommendations to law makers and policy people. Consistent in its findings has been the pervasive existence of abuse and violence perpetrated by corrections officers.
On a routine basis, the CA receives horrific reports of violence, brutality and misconduct carried out by corrections officers throughout the State. These reports come from people who are incarcerated, their loved ones and sometimes from other well-meaning and honest corrections officers and civilian employees. Fear of retaliation from corrections officers is rampant. In addition to receiving individual reports, the CA gathers information from the incarcerated population through surveys and interviews. What has emerged from over a century of prison monitoring is a chilling story of human rights violations based on violence and abuse from corrections officers.
The rules regarding dismissal of corrections officers are complicated and designed to protect them in many questionable circumstances. Like most unions representing corrections officers, NYSCOBPA is a powerful political entity in New York.
In 2011, Governor Cuomo, recognized that there were over 8000 empty prison beds in the DOCCS system, that the prison population had decreased by over 15,000 in the previous 10 years and that crime had decreased by 25-40%. As a result, he closed 7 prisons, none of which were maximum security facilities. He declared, and rightly so, that the prison system was not to be used as a “jobs industry” for upstate rural communities. The immediate outcry from NYSCOBPA was that public safety was at risk and that the lives of its members were being placed in jeopardy.
Again in 2013, Governor Cuomo announced that 4 additional DOCCS facilities would be closed by July 2014; and again NYSCOBPA cried out that a risk to public safety was at stake. Despite their claims, they could point to no increased risk to public safety and crime rates remained steady.
Interestingly, the frequently heard mantra from NYSCOBPA is that maximum security facilities house “the worst of the worst” and that those facilities are essential to ensuring public safety. No similar claim had been made about medium security facilities.
Since 2011, crime rates have held steady and the prison population has continued to decline. NYSCOBPA members, still fearing that their jobs are at stake, now introduce a new, illogical argument – the closure of medium security facilities puts them at risk. There is no logical connection between closure of medium security facilities and safety for corrections officers.
As DOCCS moves forward to comply with recent court orders curtailing the use of solitary confinement and the Governor reduces unnecessary spending on empty prison beds, NYSCOBPA launches this campaign in a last ditch effort to justify their jobs and deflect attention on the misdeeds of its members.
The CA has been monitoring the high rates of suicide and self-harm in the state prisons for more than a decade and has repeatedly drawn attention to excessively high rates of harm at certain prisons and in specific locations, such as solitary confinement and residential mental health units, to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the legislature in the CA’s reports and legislative testimonies. DOCCS suicide rate from 2010-16 was 56% higher than the national average for all US prisons.Read More
John J. Lennon, a contributing writer at The Marshall Project, has written for Vice, The Atlantic, and The New York Times. He is currently in Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. He will be eligible for parole in 2029. Joe Cardo was out hunting for half-smoked cigarettes. From my perch at the white-boys’ table of the A Block [...]Read More
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WOMEN AND ISOLATED CONFINEMENT Women held in isolated confinement are subjected to dehumanizing treatment—treatment that makes it difficult for them to maintain their dignity, hygiene, nutrition and personal property. They can get in trouble for something as simple as attempting to talk to the person next to them. They are denied commissary privileges which provide [...]Read More