A new report by the Department of Investigation has uncovered yet more dysfunction at the troubled Rikers Island prison. The New York Times reports that more than a third of the 153 recently hired corrections officers “had problems that either should have disqualified them or needed further scrutiny” during the application process. The “red flags” include 10 officers who had more than one arrest, and 79 applicants having family members or friends currently or formerly in jail, which is a “potential security threat,” the Times reports.
The New York Daily News has the rundown:
* A correction officer admitted having close ties to a gang member.
* Nearly half the hires — 65 of them — indicated potential problems during their psych exams.
* The Department of Correction’s own intelligence bureau told the DOI there were “dozens of staff with gang affiliations.”
* Some of the correction officers recently hired had been rejected — sometimes more than once — by the NYPD, the state Corrections Department or the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel police.
* Another applicant had run up $400,000 in debt and was hired anyway despite an administrator’s acknowledgment in his recommendation “that this put him at risk for corruption.”
The report is the most recent in a series that have exposed “a culture of violence” and corruption at the prison complex, prompting Mayor Bill de Blasio to seek serious reform at the facility. In the last year alone, 23 Rikers staff and officials have been arrested or “referred for discipline” by the DOI, for “excessive force, smuggling of contraband, or falsification of documents and evidence,” the Times notes. DOI Commissioner Mark Peters says that the lax hiring practices are related to the general dysfunction:
This is perhaps the most serious challenge facing the Department of Correction, both because we’ve got hard numbers demonstrating a lot of correction officers being hired despite obvious disqualifiers such as gang affiliation, prior arrest, relatives who are incarcerated and failing psychological exams,” said Mark Peters, the Department of Investigation commissioner. “But also because all of the other problems that we’re trying to fix can’t get fully resolved until we solve this problem first.”
(Photo: Matt Green)