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Gang Violence In New York City Jails Makes July Bloodiest Month In 15 Years

August 23, 2015  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Gang Violence In New York City Jails Makes July Bloodiest Month In 15 Years

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According to the Daily News, New York City Jails saw the bloodiest month in 15 years in July, prompting concerns among city officials.

Records indicate there were 21 slashings and one stabbing in July. Most of the inmates who sustained injuries including sliced faces, shanked backs and bloody ears  involved members of the Bloods, Crips or Latin Kings.

The violence erupted inside jail cells, showers and cafeterias. One Jail house altercation involved eight gang members who slashed an inmate about 11:30 a.m. on July 1 during a religious service in the main gym on Rikers Island.

“It’s pure savagery,” said Ed Gavin, a retired deputy warden.

Last year, there was an average of just seven slashings and stabbings a month — about a third of the number recorded in July.

The increasing violence on the ‘Island’ follows an announement Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte announced a 14-point plan to reduce violence.

“Meaningful reform takes time,” said department spokeswoman Eve Kessler. “And we are confident the commissioner’s widespread reforms are leading to safer jails for our staff and inmates alike.”

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The plan announced in March includes visitor reforms to keep weapons and contraband out of Rikers, increasing security camera coverage, developing crisis intervention teams to respond to inmate-on-inmate violence and designing educational programs to reduce idle time.

Jail insiders blame much of the violence on the reduction of the number of inmates put in solitary confinement — a reform pushed by Ponte. Under the new rules, inmates who act out can be given a maximum of 60 days in solitary within a six-month stretch. Officers must give those inmates a week of freedom in the general population to divide the two 30-day sessions.

Some of the inmates have used that week of freedom to wreak more havoc, department officials said.

As a result, Ponte  is now seeking additional override powers to toss them back into solitary, a move strenuously opposed by inmate advocates. That proposal is being reviewed by the city’s Board of Correction, a jail oversight group.

“There’s no member on the board that actually worked in a jail,” said Mark Cranston, the city’s former acting correction commissioner, who retired in 2014. “As well-intended as they are, the Board of Correction is ill-equipped and lacks the knowledge to decide on policies. They impose rules that do not coincide with reality.”

Jail insiders blame much of the violence on the reduction of the number of inmates put in solitary confinement.

Jail insiders blame much of the violence on the reduction of the number of inmates put in solitary confinement.

Earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio touted the creation of a new “enhanced supervision housing” unit. The area includes refurbished cells that can house up to 250 of the jail’s most violent inmates. But there were only 63 inmates placed in the unit as of last Wednesday.

It’s unclear why the department has been slow to move inmates into the more secure cells at a time when violence continues to spike.

In one particularly brutal attack uncovered by The News, three inmates slashed the face of a rival gang member inside the Vierno Center at Rikers on July 21, records show.

Vincent Pinkney’s nose was nearly sliced in two, and there was a massive gash above his upper lip, a photo taken moments after the fight shows. The slashing appears to be retaliation for an attack nearly three years ago, sources told The News.

The News reported last month that there were 108 stabbings and slashings in fiscal year 2015, which ended July 30. That’s up 23% from the 88 in 2014 and more than double the 41 in 2011.

Much of the violence stems from ongoing disputes on the street, where gangs have been responsible for dozens of shootings. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton recently attributed about 45% of the city’s shootings to gangs and street crews.

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Jail insiders, when asked about the uptick in violence at Rikers, say justice is slow.

Of the 22 slashings and stabbings systemwide last month, 17 took place at Rikers, where Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson has jurisdiction. None of the inmates had been charged in the assaults, even though some of the attacks were caught on surveillance video.

Officials from the DA’s office say the cases are often complicated and take time to investigate.

“These are unique situations,” said a Bronx investigator. “We have to wait for multiple reports.”

After each incident, correction officials interview all the inmates involved. Their detailed findings are sent to Bronx prosecutors. But many inmates refuse to cooperate, and the reports frequently take weeks to complete.

Correction brass have only forwarded two of the July cases to Bronx prosecutors, sources said.

After each incident, correction officials interview all the inmates involved. Their detailed findings are sent to Bronx prosecutors. But many inmates refuse to cooperate, and the reports frequently take weeks to complete.

After each incident, correction officials interview all the inmates involved. Their detailed findings are sent to Bronx prosecutors. But many inmates refuse to cooperate, and the reports frequently take weeks to complete.

Critics say the delays send a terrible message to inmates and staff.

“How hard could it be? They should have a unit coordinated with the DA’s office that aggressively arrests people in real time,” Gavin said.

Johnson and Ponte should create a task force consisting of DA investigators and correction officers to tackle the problem, he added.

“Staff doesn’t see accountability for inmates’ actions, which throws them out of line with the overall goals of the administration,” Cranston said.

“If there are no consequences for bad behavior, then bad behavior will increase.”

 

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