New York State prisons among the safest!

Messer, Sheldon



New York State Prisons Among The Safest! By Sheldon N. Messer 0n Tuesday, January 21, 2014, the Albany Times Union published an article by Donn Rowe, President of the New York State Correctional Ufficers & Police Benevolent Association (Dne of New York's most powerful unions) entitled "Prisons Congested, dangerous" which appeared on page 02 in the Safety column. In the article, Mr. Rowe makes some very fictitious yet serious claims, one in which he states that the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision "buried" its annual report on the state of New York prisons "in ea dusty corner of its website," because "it would have to admit that New York's correctional facilities are overcrowded and dangerous." I lcannot confimn or deny the voracity of Mr. Rowe's claims in regards to why NYSD0005 opted to place its report in a particular area of its website. However, I can say that, Mr. Rowe's claims that New York State prisons are "overcrowded and dangerous", in the context in which he is trying to convey and portray that claim, is utterly false. First of all, over the last few years, New York has enjoyed a significant drop ix: its prison population—-down from slightly over 70,000 to around 58,000. It is because of this drop, among other things, that Gov. Cuomo has elected to close four more Upstate prisons-——prisons that are costing the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year to run. Furthsr,, former Commissioner Brian S. Fischer, as well as Gov. Cuomo, has made it clear that Correctional Officers working at those facilities slated for closure this year will not lose their jobs, but will be allowed to transfer to other facilities within the system. wherefore, is Mr. Rowe lamenting over jobs that has not been and will not be lost? As far as his claims on overcrowding, logic demands that if there is a decrease in the prison population necessitating the closure of prisons, overcrowding is a non-issue. Mr. Rowe must have also forgotten that just last year, NYSDDBBS ended double- bunking except ixu those prisons that were recently built and designed for them. Therefore, if there was an issue of overcrowding, the system would not have been able to accommodate those prisoners leaving double—bunks with single living quarters. Second, Mr. Rowe claims that "every single statistic that measures violence in prisons is at a {five year high.“ The problem with this statement and many others Mr. Rowe makes throughout his article is that he offers us no proof as to the voracity of his claims and statistics. Mr. Rowe needs’ to quantify the above statement by telling us what statistics is he referring? who conducted- the research which produced those statistics? which correctional systems were involved in the research? when was the Research conducted, and most important, who funded the research? The Citizens of New York deserves to have those questions answered, because if what Mr. Rowe claims is true, then that mesnsé——as he ‘emphatically, implies---isv Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci, and by proxy, Gov. Cuomo perpetrated what should be a career ending cover-up of brutal assaults on state employees by prisoners. If that is true, and it can be proven, then there is no doubt that such a political scandai-—-which New York is no stranger to~--will surely sink Gov. Cuomo's political career and presidential aspirations faster than the George washington Bridge scandal fis- sinking Gov. Christie's in New Jersey. The other question which the Citizens of New York deserve answered is why Mr. Rowe did. not take. this ~m: Gov. Buomo's Commission to root out government corruption? Nevertheless, Mr. Rowe did his best to Escare the Citizens of New York into believing that "the barbarians are at the gates" and that New .York's prison system is cut of control, dangerous, and on the _:_1*' verge of collapse. However, nothing is more further from the truth. The New York State prison system is one of the safest in the country when it comes to prisoner on prisoner violence, and certainly when it comes to prisoner assaults on correctional staff. It is conceded that all prisona are dangerous places or has a high potentiality for danger; However, it navarthaless boils down to various degrees of dangarousnass, which are predicated upon a myriad of circumstances, The bottom line is every prison system cannot be categorized the same and painted with tho same brush. compared to states like California, Texas, Illinois, Eouisiana, Miasissippi, at al. There is no question that New York has a much safer prison system for both “prisoners ‘and staff. That is not to say that being incarcerated in a New York State prison is a walk in the park. Howavar, compare those states‘ rates of gang violence/participation, gang assault, assaults on statf, and prison rapes, and you will see that Nam York do not rank in the top twanty—fiva of the country‘s worst prison systems. Mr. Roma goes on to claim that "there were more assaults by inmates on staff" and once again fails to offer references to support his claims, or identify what statistics ha is quoting. I will not balabor the issue of Mr. Roma's more than liberal use of non-raterencad and non—varifiable statistics. However, I cannot dismiss the fact that Mr. Roma claims that thera were “at least five separate assaults on staff..." in Nam York State prisons, and claims that that is 23 "fivé year high". If "at least five separate assaults on staff" is a five year high in Nam York State, that means that prior to 2013, thara were virtually no "legitimate" claims or actual staff assaults taking place at all. I think that is something the public and Mr. Rowe's constituents should be grateful. Further, ‘when you compare five asaaults on staff within a year to the number of the some types of assaults taking place in the other states mentioned above "at least fivo" unfortunately sounds quite_ nogligibla—-—especia1ly since %Mr. Rowe cannot offer us any concrete‘ proof of his claims, and NVDDCES' 2053 report ‘emphatically refutes his claims. If Mr. Rome mishos to discuss with the citizens of New York the rising rates of violence in their prisons, than he needs to come clean and tell them that the only serious and injurious violence taking place in New York's prisons more than any other form of violence, are staff assaults on both adult and juvenile prisoners, which are consistently swept under his unions‘ rug and chalked up as legal "Uses of Force". However, that is for another article. The simple truth of the matter is, Mr. Rome and his constituents, as, well as certain Upstate mombers of the legislature, are attempting to sell the people of Now Vork a rotten hill of goods. Mr. Roma wants to protect and advance the political and economic status ouo and power base of Upstate residents who views the prison system and the imprisonment of thousands of pooplc as an employment program. Mr. Rowe's only concern is to maintain a syotom of maao incarceration and prison building, in order to prop up struggling and depressed Upstate counties and communitioo. Someone need fo inform Mr. Rowe, his oonstitutento in his union, as umflj. as oor Upstate lfigislaturas and neighbors that prison—based—eoonomies are not only fiscally ' unsound~—- especially since America is moving towards decreasing its burgeoning prison population--—but are_ also depraved and inhumane. Incorporating people on a wholesale basis and keeping them looked behind bars without ~any hopes for freedom ‘and redemption, in order to» employ othar is not justice! A8 Humankind advoncas as so species, we must aloo find ways of reducing poverty, and ending drug addiction and crime, so phat we will have no need of either prisons or man and women to guard them. Sheldon N. Messor is a New York State prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence of twenty years to life at Eastern N.Y. Correctional Facility §§(/:§Z:»j;7’ .3-§7~ 2&9/35

Author: Messer, Sheldon

Author Location: New York

Date: February 9, 2014

Genre: Essay

Extent: 6 pages

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