Jail and Prison Staffing Levels Across NY State Dangerously Low!
Jail and Prison Staffing Levels Across NY State Dangerously Low!
CODE SIGNAL 13 OFFICER NEEDS ASSISTANCE!
To all Corrections Officers family, and loved ones:
We need your help! Please read the following statements regarding forced overtime, sign and indicate if you are either Correctional staff or family in the comments section. Let’s show the New York Corrections Chairs that their uniformed constituents need their attention now!
The Downstate Corrections Coalition
To NYS Senator Julia Salazar & NYS Assemblyman David Weprin,
I am writing to you as Chairs of The Committee’s on Corrections in each of your legislative branches. As President of The Westchester Corrections Officers Benevolent Association (representing close to 700 uniformed front-line staff) to give you some perspective from the boots on the ground about the state of corrections in New York State post bail reform and COVID-19.
In 2019 when NYS passed bail reform legislation many government municipalities prepared for scaling back uniformed correctional staff through attrition with the anticipation of lowered inmate populations due to this newly passed legislation. Little did anyone know or would they ever be prepared for was a global pandemic such as COVID-19. In the spring of 2020 with COVID in full effect, the need to social distance the inmate population had us drastically increase the footprint of the population. To further exacerbate the challenges associated with the situation, add in the number of officers who contracted COVID or needed to stay out due to underlying health, or childcare issues. These are just a few factors that have lead us to a shortage of officers to operate a 24/7 365 days a year operation. Fast forward to July 2021 a vast majority of my women and men are being forced to work 16-hour tours at times 3 times a week and at other times all 5 days of their work week. This not only effects my officers with lack of sleep, but drastically effects their home lives, as well as the inmate population in which they are supervising.
The inmate population are not your only constituents behind the walls of our facility, my officers, their families (many who have been dealing with continuous childcare issues due to the pandemic) are your constituents as well. We are mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons, and our rights are no less important than that of the inmate population.
As a member of The Downstate Corrections Coalition a coalition which represents over 30,000 uniform staff, we implore you to come visit our facilities and speak to our members to see the effects forced overtime for a pro-longed period has not only us, but on our families. We need proper staffing levels immediately and as the Chairs of the Committee’s on Corrections we feel it is imperative we meet immediately to see how we can make things right for us and to protect our rights as NYS residents as we have protected the inmate population we are in trusted to take care of.
Neil Pellone, WCOBA President
“Over the past 16 months, the global pandemic has created unforeseen hardships and chaos in everyone’s lives. The one thing that has remain consistent though, is the hard work and dedication of the men and women of NYSCOPBA. Day after day, hour after hour, our members have risked their own health and safety to perform an essential service on behalf of the community. Now that we’ve had a moment to regroup and refocus, it’s time to turn our attention to some of the glaring issues that remain. At the top of that list is adequate staffing in our facilities. I implore the State legislators to see for themselves, the adverse conditions that our members face on a daily basis and gain a true understanding of how badly this issue, among others, needs to be urgently addressed and immediately rectified.”
Michael B Powers, NYSCOPBA President
“New York City’s jails are a ticking time bomb that are on the verge of a catastrophic explosion. Assaults on our officers have skyrocketed every year, including a record high of 23% last year, female officers continue to be sexually harassed and assaulted daily, and thousands of officers are forced to work double and triple shifts without meals. In many cases we even have officers sleeping in their cars in the parking lot of Rikers because they are too exhausted to drive home. The forced triple shifts crisis has caused over 1,000 officers to resign because they simply can’t take it anymore. This is a human rights crisis as well and as chairs of your respective committees, we urge you to join us on a tour of our facilities so you can talk to the men and women who are essential first responders and who continue to be forsaken by our grossly mismanaged agency.”
Benny Boscio Jr. NYCCOBA President
“Frequent mandated overtime has proven to have a severe negative impact on an individual's mental health, physical health, and family life. Correctional facilities need to have proper staffing to avoid mental and physical exhaustion of Officers which can be harmful to staff and the inmate population.” - Lou Viscusi, Suffolk County COBA President
“The passage of last year’s Bail Reform Law along with changes that were implemented by the NYS Commission of Corrections has emboldened local municipalities and the State to take a hands off approach with regard to staffing and training in our respective Departments’ of Correction. These changes in the Criminal Justice System and Corrections in particular in NY are financially driven under false narratives of numerous social justice agendas.
The driving force behind these “Reforms” is to reduce the cost of incarceration by releasing dangerous criminals loose onto our streets and consolidating inmate housing areas in our facilities. Inside our jails, staffing levels have been reduced to dangerously low levels even as our inmate populations have decreased throughout the implementation of these “reforms”. Our Municipalities have continued to enforce a “do more with less and less ” policy as they push staffing levels beyond barebones coverage.
This coupled with the lack of proper training of our Officers who manage populations of inmates who are incarcerated for serious high level violent felonies, has created untenable and unsustainable environments to work in and control.
Violence, injuries to inmates and staff alike; contraband; crimes within our walls and in the streets has risen exponentially but remains largely ignored by our elected officials who continue to portray violent criminals as the actual victims, while our dedicated Officers and those inmates who simply want to do their time quietly and without incident are put in harm’s way with no recourse every day. These “reforms” are turning our facilities into Gladiator Schools where there are no ramifications for violent, sometimes deviant behavior. Female Officers are abused and harassed and Gang activity is at an all time high, while proper tools, training and staffing are ignored.
We are not moving in any direction whatsoever toward reform or providing protection and safety for our staff and inmates. We are in fact having the exact opposite forced upon us by ideologues and then held accountable for adverse repercussions while dangerous violent criminals are coddled and given a free pass. This all before HALT Legislation takes effect next year, which will make our facilities completely unmanageable when we will no longer be able to separate violent, incorrigible and many time’s psychotic inmates from the general population. This insanity has to stop.”
Brian Sullivan, Nassau COBA President
"Staffing levels for Supervisors at the Westchester County Jail were dangerously low this year due to retirements. Because these vacancies were not immediately filled, many Supervisors were mandated to work overtime to properly staff the facility in accordance with the New York State Commission of Corrections. When Supervisors are mandated to work overtime, usually multiple times a week, they become exhausted. This physical and mental exhaustion takes a toll on the individual Supervisors and their families. This exhaustion also impacts the ability to serve the residents at the Westchester County Jail."
Pete Dichiara, WCSOA President