Monday, April 18, 2016

Union issues statement on violence in prisons across New York

The following statement can be attributed to Michael B. Powers, President of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association:
“At a time when violence in our prisons – from assaults on staff, inmate on inmate assaults and contraband - are at an all-time high, DOCCS should be making it a priority to make the prisons safer for everyone who works there as wells as those incarcerated instead of shifting the blame to the officers who put their lives on the line to keep New Yorkers safe.

“Instead of hiding from their responsibility, DOCCS should be leading an honest dialogue about how to actually solve the problems plaguing our prisons. That requires a much more robust investment in training, technology, and tools to keep up with the historic rise in violence and improve public safety and the protection of everyone at our facilities.

“Any dysfunction or inability to properly investigate falls at the feet of DOCCS Administration.  It is not the role of the “powerful corrections union”, as the New York Times put it, to make sure the Office of Special Investigations operates efficiently.   If they didn’t train their investigators sufficiently to competently handle internal investigations, the responsibility lies with the supervisors of that office and those above them, the Acting Commissioner and his deputies. Let’s not also forget that the former Director of Operations of the Office of Special Investigations, who was in charge of those 100 plus internal affairs investigators, pled guilty to a misdemeanor this past January and abruptly retired.

“The role of any union is to protect the interests of its members and advocate for them.   Just because NYSCOPBA was able to protect the rights of its members through the collective bargaining process with New York State doesn’t mean that a newspaper, organization, government official or inmate advocate should have free reign to blame NYSCOPBA for the incompetency that exists at DOCCS.

“The New York Times, in a recent news story, pointed out the number of settlements the State has made with inmates over allegations of abuses.  But they fail to mention that the overwhelmingly number of use of force investigations are unsubstantiated. There is certainly an appearance that the State is far too quick to settle a lawsuit and award a cash settlement rather than investigate the allegations properly.

“The fact is that the overwhelmingly majority of our correction officers go to work every day in an increasingly dangerous environment that puts both their own lives and the lives of inmates in jeopardy. It’s time we began a conversation to reshape our prisons into a safer and more secure environment for those who work and live there.”