New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte on Thursday announced several measures to protect staff at city jails.
New scanners will be installed to help detect contraband that current scanners cannot. “The new scanners will be the highest-quality non-ionizing scanners allowed under state law — much like those found at airports,” according to a press release de Blasio issued Thursday. The new scanners, which will be used to screen both inmates and visitors, will be placed in the visitor processing center on Rikers Island, as well as at other key locations on Rikers Island and across the city.
Additionally, the Emergency Services Unit — a Rikers-based special unit that responds to emergencies — will now be deployed in teams within correction facilities rather than in a centralized location, thereby speeding response times to emergency incidents. “ESU teams will now be stationed at multiple facilities on Rikers Island as well as in some borough-based facilities,” said the press release. Moreover, ESU supervisors will now have Tasers.
“Safety is always our number-one priority, and these smart measures will give officers the tools they need to protect their and inmates’ safety,” said de Blasio.
Finally, de Blasio and Ponte announced that the new class of Correction Department recruits, which will be graduating in November, numbers more than 700 recruits, the Department’s largest graduating class ever.
“Our reforms start and end with our officers – we seek to train, support and empower them,” said Ponte. “Although we still have much more to do, the infusion of new officers into the ranks will, in time, help ease the burden of extra shifts.
“The safety of our staff is paramount.”