Part two; Protecting our Correction Officers

Some time ago, I wrote a post titled From Illinois to New York, Solutions for Understaffed Jails. The articles referenced in the post outlined the grave environment that jails have transformed into for inmates and correction officers. An unsafe work environment for Corrections Officers ultimately leads to poor conditions for inmates. Inmates have quick and easy access to all kinds of contraband, putting the lives of CO’s in danger. The story on such work environments has developed.

As of last year, according to COBA statistics, just about half of the stabbings & slashings at Rikers Island Department of Correction involved 18 to 21 year olds-64 out of a total of 125 for the year. This is also the same age group that has seen an end to Solitary Confinement on Rikers Island. The COBA Union and the President of COBA have been imploring the Department and the City to see what is happening to their Corrections Officers, calling the end to solitary confinement “open season on CO’s”. “We have since filed an improper practice petition against the City and the Department of Correction for violating our collective bargaining agreement when the Department unilaterally eliminated punitive segregation for 18-21 year old inmates.”, a quote in a newsletter this month from the COBA President, Elias Husamudeen. Another statistic-since January of this year, which isn’t even over, 620 NYC Correction Officers have been assaulted by inmates under 21. Husamudeen has urged for the removal of violent inmates with a repetitive history of assaulting COs to mental health facilities or another jurisdiction, one where solitary confinement is in place. The COBA President has also noted that, on the upside, a number of these repeat offenders have been rearrested. This process of rearresting repeat assailants is accompanied by other highly preventative measures, all in the name of protecting New York’s Boldest. He states that Corrections Officers need policy makers to act as quickly with CO’s as they do with police officers when it comes to punishing assailants. Their safety and protection against assaults is hindered by mandated triple-shifts, due to programs that require a staff size that is unavailable at Rikers.

The road to reform for our Correction Officers is long and winding, but must be traveled. All who protect us deserve the same from the system at hand.

From New York to Illinois, Solutions For Understaffed Jails

Teamsters Local 700 in Lake County, Illinois have stepped up for the areas overworked correctional officers. Too often are jails understaffed leaving their correctional officers working a recently mandated and regulated over time, putting themselves at more of a risk then they all ready do. Correctional officers also bear the weight of gender-specific duties. In a quote from the article from PRnewswire.com, “The female correctional officers are excessively impacted by the overtime regulation because of their specific assignments that only female officers can attend to.” This also applies in the case for male correctional officers. As much as this is a risk for the CO’s, its also a risk for the inmates-less officers on duty means a higher probability of something bad happening to either party, and both need to be protected.

This problem is also evident here in New York. At the beginning of this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio made a plan to spend more than $100 Million to improve the conditions of the Rikers Island NYC Department of Correction. This would be effective July of 2017. The push for funding was a response to a federal lawsuit that addressed violence in jails-which in turn means violence in working conditions for correctional officers, and violence in living conditions for inmates. Close to $60 million of the budget is being put to staffing the facility. It’s also not as if understaffing versus overcrowding isn’t an issue either. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and statistics do show that prisons and jails are overcrowded as well as they are understaffed.

Read the articles linked below for more information.

Union: State Prisons Dangerously Understaffed

Teamsters Local 700 Continues to Fight for Lake County Correctional Officers

Rikers Island Will Have More Officers Than Inmates Under Proposed Budget