New York State Assemblyman Michael Durso (R-Massapequa Park) joined lawmakers from the Assembly, correction officers, Correction Officers Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio and Legislative Chairman Herman Jiminian for a press conference that took place on March 14 at Rikers Island Correctional Facility.
The group called on New York City leaders and Mayor Eric Adams to address the dangerous staffing shortage, attacks on correction officers and a repeal of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement (HALT) Act, which limits the use of segregated confinement for prison inmates to 15 days and leaves the prison population and correction officers vulnerable to attacks.
“The fact is that our brave correction officers are faced with dangerous, and sometimes deadly situations each day they step inside a correctional facility or prison. The last thing we should be doing is reducing staff or making it more difficult for them to protect themselves,” Durso said. “Some of our state and city leaders want to close more jails and prisons. Where do they think these deadly inmates are going to go? It’s just placing more stress on COs and putting them in harm’s way.”
In the past three years, the correction officer headcount has dropped 30%, as over 4,000 officers have resigned or retired since 2019. This is in large part due to the fact that officers are forced to work over 16-hour days and some even work 24-hour shifts without meals or rest. In addition to these departures, sexual assaults on female officers continue to rise. Approximately 40 female officers at Rikers have been sexually assaulted by inmates and their assailants can only face misdemeanors, not felonies.
In conclusion, Durso said, “The first step is repealing the HALT Act, second is fully fund and increase our prison staff and, third, is to make it a felony to sexually assault a correction officer – we can do all this immediately and all are absolutely necessary.”