Corrections workers protest dangerous work environment
STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 11/10/2011, 10:37 a.m.
On Tuesday, the Correction Officers Benevolent Association (COBA) held a protest called Operation Occupy Rikers Island at the entrance to the jail's bridge to protest job cuts. Officers say the cuts have led to jail violence and increased assaults on correction officers.
Recently, Department of Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro made some cuts to security posts in the city's jails. These cuts, according to COBA President Norman Seabrook, are the reason why officers have been injured by prison inmates in violent attacks. Seabrook spoke with the AmNews about the rally, the situation the officers find themselves under and if he believes Schriro and company will respond to their demands.
"I believe that it's important that the people of New York City know where their tax dollars are going," said Seabrook. "And where they're going is to lawsuits that are brought by victims [inmates assaulted by other inmates] and correctional officers who are assaulted and cannot come to work because they have broken limbs, which costs the city even more money." Seabrook said that because of cuts by Schriro, officers are now manning posts where there are either one or two of them in charge of close to 60 inmates. According to the COBA president, this has resulted in some violent encounters between overwhelmed officers and inmates.
"I think it is very important that people understand what's taking place within the Department of Correction," said Seabrook. "Inmates that are accused of some of the most horrendous crimes in the City of New York are incarcerated in the city's jail system. These inmates are part of organized gangs like the Bloods, the Crips and the Latin Kings. They are consistently assaulting officers and leaving them with broken jaws, 16 stitches and thumbs that are bitten off for the rest of their life-all types of violent acts."
Is Seabrook convinced that Schriro would listen? Seabrook says he thinks he's got the commissioner's attention, but he's afraid that she'd do something just to calm him down, and he says he doesn't want that.
"I'm not looking for someone to appease me," Seabrook said. "I'm looking for someone to do what they should be doing. The same thing that happens to police officers when they get assaulted should be the same thing that happens to corrections officers. [Culprits] should be re-arrested and re-charged, and bail should be posted along with a trial date.
The next move belongs to Schriro.