Corrections union head blames City Council for Rikers dysfunction
BY DAVID LAZAR NEW YORK CITY
PUBLISHED 9:30 PM ET SEP. 19, 2022
Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association president Benny Boscio blamed City Council for a staffing shortage at city jails, citing this as a reason for why there have been 14 Rikers-related deaths this year.
“Any death in our custody is very tragic and our hearts go out to the family, but look, the City Council has no one else to blame but themselves,” Boscio told Errol Louis on “Inside City Hall” Monday night. “We have been defunded for years.”
Kevin Bryan, 35, who was in custody at the Eric M. Taylor Center, was pronounced dead Wednesday morning, according to the Department of Correction.
Bryan was being attacked by several other people detained in a dormitory style housing area when a female officer — the only one on duty in that area — pulled Bryan into a hallway behind a locked gate, Boscio said. While the officer called for extra support, Bryan entered an officers’ bathroom and dead bolted the bathroom door from the inside, according to Boscio. When officers got the door open, they found Bryan had hung himself.
“We need staff,” Boscio said. “In order to fix all these problems, we need safe staffing levels, to keep everyone in our system safe.”
Boscio added that a new proposed bill banning solitary confinement will put officers and inmates at risk.
The legislation would mandate a maximum of eight hours per night and two hours per day that the Department of Correction would be allowed to confine inmates.
“detainees know there are no consequences,” Boscio said. “So guess what? What would encourage them to change their behavior?”
Boscio claimed that banning punitive segregation would make the general population of inmates vulnerable to attacks from violent offenders.
“Everyone is advocating for the small population that is wreaking havoc, that is assaulting people.” Boscio said. “Who is advocating for the inmate on the other side of that slashing? Doesn’t everyone deserve to be safe?”
The proposed bill comes as the Department of Correction deals with a large amount of officers calling out sick, contributing to dozens of posts not being staffed.
In August, on average, 12% of the Department of Correction staff was out sick, while 8% of the staff was on medically modified duty last month, according to the city comptroller’s office.
Boscio alleged that violence is jails is contributing to officers missing work.
“We did not sign up to take this job to be assaulted, to be bruised, to go home with broken orbitals, to be cut in the face. What do we do? No one is able to answer that question, but everybody says we can’t have punitive segregation,” Boscio said.