Rikers Island probe finds glaring security issues

An undercover investigator posing as a corrections officer brought drugs and alcohol into Rikers.

A plastic bag of heroin, a half pound of marijuana, a water bottle full of vodka, a razor blade: these are all items an undercover investigator posing as a corrections officer was able to sneak past security at Rikers Island on several occasions, part of a sweeping probe into the lax security at the prison by the city’s Department of Investigation.

The report found that inmates pay about $600 for each package a DOC employee sneaks in for them, allowing them to potentially make thousands.

“DOI’s investigation exposes the dangerous problem of weapons and narcotics smuggling within the City’s jails,” DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said in a statement. “We are pleased that DOC has responded quickly to these most-recent findings and proposed new protocols that we believe will address these issues.”

Proposed reforms include drug-sniffing dogs stationed at staff entrances, a first for the prison, according to the DOI.

Other reforms suggested included specialized staff at security entrances, upgrading to policies similar to the ones employed by the Transportation Security Administration at airports, and eliminating cargo pockets in corrections officers’ uniformed pants.

These protocols, however, could take up to six months to implement.

“I have zero tolerance for anyone, including staff, bringing contraband into DOC facilities,” DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte said in a statement. “The Department has already begun reforms to address the issues raised in the DOI report, and we will continue to work with DOI to keep our facilities safe.”

Ponte said the DOC has already started to implement some recommendations, such as requiring all food and medications be X-rayed, using drug-sniffing dogs at the front gates and started exploring the use of equipment and screening techniques similar to the ones used by the TSA.

The report called current protocols “ineffective” and said even these were not followed consistently. Many of these reforms, however, were not implemented, the latest report found.

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