The Department of Correction announced a series of actions on Wednesday that aim to better protect its officers from violent inmates inside city jails.
Over the next 4 ½ months, the DOC plans to add dedicated Emergency Service Units in high-violence facilities, increase the number of Tasers available to officers and uniformed personnel, and place NYPD gang intelligence staff at facilities, officials said.
The announcement comes on the heels of several recent attacks on correction officers and is designed to disrupt gang activity that the DOC believes is responsible for the assaults. Most recently, correction officer Jean Souffrant suffered a fractured spine when he was assaulted by a group of inmates at Rikers Island on Saturday, according to a criminal complaint.
The security enhancements, which are being funded by the de Blasio administration to the tune of $4.5 million, are expected to be in place by the end June, according to DOC.
“With these high-visibility and comprehensive measures, we send a clear message to the gangs and violent inmates behind the recent attacks against our officers: We aren’t tolerating it,” Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann said. “We want all our officers and staff to know that we have their backs, and they have the full support of the security apparatus at the department’s disposal. We are acting aggressively to make sure our jails are safe.”
The Emergency Service Units will provide additional support during the most violence-prone shifts at four high-risk facilities on Rikers Island: Anna M. Kross Center, George R. Vierno Center, George Motchan Detention Center and the Otis Bantum Correctional Center. The George Motchan Detention Center is set to close this summer as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10-year plan to shutter the violence-plagued Rikers Island complex.
DOC plans to increase the number of personnel with Tasers from 25 to 154. All ESU personnel will be given Tasers, as will specially trained captains on-duty in targeted restrictive housing units, according to DOC.
Officers with the Correction Intelligence Bureau, meanwhile, will go through the same training that the NYPD uses to monitor gang activity in city streets.
De Blasio on Wednesday also outlined more details in his plan to close Rikers Island in favor of borough-based jails by 2027. The city will remodel existing jails next to criminal courthouses in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, and build a new jail at the current site of an NYPD tow impound in Mott Haven, the Bronx.