Reacting to the last week’s Voice’s cover story on violence in the city jails, the correction officers union president, Norman Seabrook, criticized the stewardship of jails commissioner Dora Schriro.
In an interview at his downtown Manhattan office, Seabrook says Schriro’s leadership is responsible for a rise in the number of his members sent to hospitals with injuries caused by inmates–including 96 officers so far this year–and a decline in morale among officers. He also said she has cut too many staff posts.
“My officers continue to be brutalized by inmates,” Seabrook says. “Unfortunately, correction officers are out of sight and out of mind. If I was commissioner tomorrow, I would fire just about every manager in the department.”
Of Schriro, he said, “Dr. Schriro is just that: a doctor. We need a correction commissioner. We need someone who is going to listen and get the job done. I don’t want someone who talks about the programs they do. The priorities are mixed up. We’re not dealing with the fundamentals.”
And of Schriro’s claim that the teenage population is very difficult to manage, he says, “You shouldn’t have this job if you can’t control this environment. If you have a jail that’s out of control, you have to get someone to deal with it.”
Seabrook says the department is abdicating its role in referring inmate assaults on officers to the Bronx District Attorney for criminal prosecution. “They kick the shit out of us, and no one touches them,” he says. “Meanwhile, correction officers are indicted on frivolous charges. How come inmates are not being rearrested? Are they waiting for a correction officer to be killed?”
Asked about whether officers condone, if not order, elements of the Program, he responded with a question of his own: “Where is the captain? He or she sees the same thing that the officer sees. When you have correction officers who do not feel they are being supported, they begin to lose interest.”
Noting that the system is spending an estimated $10 million a month in overtime, he says, “With that, I could hire 2,000 correction officers. If it’s $10 million a month, that is mismanagement.”
Seabrook warned that a major incident could happen this summer, and he said the system isn’t prepared for it.
He proposed several changes to how teens are handled in the jails. He says no officer under the age of 30 should work with teens. The jail needs increased supervision, and a return to the basics, with increased searches of housing units.
“The system is failing the kids,” he says. “I am so tired of correction officers getting a bad rap. You don’t hear about the good they do. All I’m asking is that we get a fair shake.”