Letter from a Prison Guard
I am a big fan of yours. I am a white guy who had worked as a NYC Corrections Officer from 1981 and retired as a Captain in 2001.
Even then they were cooking the numbers, downplaying stabbings and slashings into other things such as fights and or falls into the corners of metal bed frames and lockers. We had a lot of clumsy inmates. Lol.
In the early 90s the department averaged 120 stabbings or slashing per month. I worked in the adolescent facility which accounted for 60 per month or half of all thowe incidents in the various facilities on Rikers Island and borough jails.
My department which was predominantly black instituted a policy of broadbanding, in the early 80s where employees above the rank of Assistant Deputy Warden were no longer promoted through taking tests.
This seriously had an impact on the job because most of the bosses were white and there titles or civil service rank could not be removed. By broadbanding you can now demote someone who couldn’t reduce his jails violence numbers or promote an incompetent brotha because he threw one hell of a party at his house.
Many of my fellow black Correction Officers were unfortunately sympathetic to the inmates. Some grew up with them and boosted cars with them and others foolishly, stupidly believed that the cops picked them up because they are black. Most inmates were arrested 5 or 6 times before they ever did any time in prison.
The judge would give a guy 1 year probation for a robbery. The guy during this year commits another crime and what do you think the judge does? Gives him additional probation. Many of my coworkers were anti police, school, white and many unpatriotic. I sometimes wondered if they would have my back if I were attacked.
Of course every inmate told me that they were innocent and that the cops picked them up because they were black. If that were true it never explained the savagery these inmates demonstrated with violence towards one another if they were innocent angels picked up. The slashings were caused by straight edge razor blades.
Since they aren’t sold in the commissary then they were obviously brought in by staff. Drugs also. The jail regarding defending yourself against assaults became a hands off policy. The system had gone from a controlled environment in 1981 where if an inmate assaulted staff he went to the hospital. To an out of control one where defending yourself or another can cost you your job.
They actually made the jails a better place for a brotha to live should he unfortunately get caught and gets time than a section 8 housing complex. I know because in 2006 I worked as an armed guard in one for 14 months until the company that I was working for lost the contract for this complex.
There were 8 shootings and 1 stabbing during my 14 months there. One Tennant who got shot in the back happened to make it to the security office before he collapsed. Not kidding!
Many tenants urinated in the hallways, stairwells, elevators and threw garbage out of the windows. Vandalism and graffiti were commonplace. There were 2 occasions of wilding where 30 to 40 kids beat up another black kid. No reports to the police when they arrived. On one such occasion when the police were removing a guy the tenants were throwing rocks and eggs.
The Police basically stayed out of this complex to avoid problems. The FDNY was there on several occasions as some tenants threw items on fire down the garbage chute which would ignite the compactor on fire. I had worked with a retired cop at this place and for 19.75 an hour. We both should have had our head examined for taking this job. Sorry for my rambling but keep up the good work Colin.
Everything you are stating here is spot on!