Tension with corrections officers and oversight board escalates


Long-standing tension between the City Board of Corrections for New York City and the Correction Officers Benevolent Association escalated at a recent public hearing. In the meeting, Steven Safyer, City Board of Correction member called Correction Officers Benevolent Association president “a piece of s—t.” The labor union feels the City Board of Corrections is too inmate-friendly.

Union attorney, Marc Steier, responded to the insult to his organization’s president by saying he would file a complaint with the city’s Commission on Human Rights. He requested Safyer issue an apology for his remark.

City Board of Corrections policy creating tensions

The board has oversight over New York City jails. This includes the Department of Correction and Health + Hospitals’ Correctional Health Services.

The board has restricted the use of solitary confinement for inmates and requires recording of inmates’ missed medical appointments. They also investigate claims made against corrections officers.

The paid staff monitors the corrections officers and makes sure minimum standards are met. They also create reports about lockdown issues, and treatment of inmates in solitary.

Corrections Officers Benevolent Association fires back

The union has seen a spike in violence erupting in the jails in the past decade which they feel is affecting officer safety. They attribute the spike to the board’s emphasis on inmate welfare. The inmates have established activists who report to the board and are organizing within the jails

Punishments commonly used to subdue inmates from violent action such as restricted phone and visitor privileges, as well as solitary confinement have been discouraged.

Recent violence prompts rebuke

The Bronx District Attorney rebuked the board shortly after a violent gang attack on a corrections officer. He urged the board to enforce consequences for these types of violent acts perpetuated by inmates. Nevertheless, the board continues to defend its work publically and cite successes.

The union submitted a binder of officer safety concerns and recorded incidents of inmate assault to the State Commission of Corrections. The hope is that the State Commission will force the city Department of Corrections to change its policies.

For those experiencing similar conflicts with oversight boards or regulatory agencies that oversee the work of the union, make sure to consult an attorney who focuses on labor law.

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