‘Pervasive level of disorder and chaos’ at NYC jails amid leadership shakeup, feds say

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Rikers Island jail complex

Rikers Island jail complex

NEW YORK — A lack of reforms in the New York City jail system is “frustrating and disappointing,” according to a new report from the federal monitor tasked with investigating New York City jails.

The city Department of Correction was ordered in 2015 to reduce violence in Rikers Island jail facilities and ensure inmate safety and well being. Not enough has been done in the year’s since, according to Tuesday’s report .

“The pervasive level of disorder and chaos in the facilities is alarming,” Steve Martin wrote in the report.

Martin’s report came out on the same day as DOC Commissioner Cynthia Brann announced her resignation. She’s worked with the federal monitor for years.

“During this monitoring period, we continued to face the challenges presented by this unprecedented pandemic,” Brann said. “We appreciate the monitor for acknowledging our ability to adapt in many areas and for noting the ‘major accomplishment’ of our Investigations Division in investigating and reviewing all Use of Force incidents in near real-time—an agency milestone.”

Brann will be replaced by Vincent Schiraldi: a man who Mayor Bill de Blasio said will make the city’s criminal justice system “more humane.”

The leadership changes are anticipated to cause issues.

“Although expected, there is no question that these transitions will only further disrupt the Department’s work and their ability to focus on or advance the various initiatives required for progress toward the Consent Judgment’s requirements,” Martin wrote.

He pointed to three main issues that have stopped reform efforts:

  • “The poor quality of Facility leadership hinders progress”
  • “The dysfunctional deployment and overstaffing of certain posts in the Facilities”
  • “The Department must have the ability to hold Staff accountable closer in time to the incident when they are not meeting their responsibilities and when misconduct occurs.”

Jail workers in particular were slammed in the report. Staff often seem to feel “someone else will handle the problem” when they see issues, according to the report.

When they do handle issues, they often have a “hyper-confrontational demeanor,” Martin wrote.

“These behaviors significantly increase the likelihood that situations will escalate to the point that physical force becomes necessary,” according to the report.

The Emergency Services Unit at jails are also plagued with issues.

“ESU Teams are far too frequently hyper-confrontational and unprofessional,” Martin wrote. “They almost always fail to first attempt de-escalation when they arrive on the scene and appear to presume force will be required no matter the circumstance.”

PIX11 has reached out to the union representing correction officers for comment.

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