If you had an extremely violent dog housed in a kennel, and every time you entered that kennel the dog attacked you, is the problem the dog or the kennel?
If you owned a bakery and your pastry chef was completely incompetent, would you tear down the bakery, build a new one and then move your incompetent pastry chef into the new bakery?
As bizarre and preposterous as these examples may sound, that's what I thought of when New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that he intends to close Rikers Island, and build a number of smaller facilities throughout New York City.
For more than a decade, violence, corruption, and mismanagement have plagued the New York City Department of Correction, which all came to a head in 2014 when the U. S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York made public a report declaring the city's jail system was in mass chaos.
Mayor DeBlasio appointed a new correction commissioner to address the problems. The new commissioner then brought in McKinsey and Company to assess the department and make recommendations at a cost to taxpayers of $1.7 million. At the same time, the City Council brought in a former judge and a so-called 26 member blue ribbon panel to look at Rikers Island and make recommendations for improvement.
The McKinsey contract according to recent reports, has now ballooned to more than $25 million and that blue ribbon panel has recommended that Rikers Island be closed, and that the 10,000 inmates be spread into a number of facilities throughout the five boroughs.
The Mayor accepted the panel's recommendation, but indicated he has no intention of building a jail facility in Staten Island. This means he has to spread 10,000 inmates throughout the other four boroughs. To insure the proper capacity, should the inmate population increase, logic would say that the city would have to building a 3,000 bed jail, in each of the four remaining borooughs.
I have watched and listened in complete dismay and amazement at the completely incompetent leadership in the department. Few, if any, strides have been made in the past two years, even with McKinsey and this 26 member blue ribbon panel.
To add fuel to the fire, money- hungry liberal legal advocates have zeroed in on the mayor, pushing an agenda to close Rikers Island, using the violence, mismanagement and corruption as their justification.
However, neither McKinsey, the blue ribbon panel, nor the advocates with dollar signs in their eyes have recreated the policies, procedures, or programs that were established between 1995 and 2002 that were responsible for the most substantial inmate-on-inmate violence reduction program in any jail or prison system in our country. And this was at a time when the average daily population read between 18,000-22,000 inmates. Today that inmate population runs between 7,000 - 10,000, less than half.
In the aftermath of a New York magazine report the claimed Rikers Island was about to explode in 1994, then Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani appointed new leadership in the department, with the mandate to reduce violence, adhere to state and federal laws, come into compliance with numerous federal consent decrees, and ensure a safer and more secure environment for inmates and staff alike.
With 133,000 inmate admissions per year, the department averaged between 100 to 150 stabbings and slashings per month, and was legally dealing with close to 100 different consent decrees resulted. Violence was out-of-control, and the inmates ran the asylum.
Over the next six years, the department achieved a 93% reduction in inmate violence (slashings and stabbings), a 72% reduction in serious uses of force Incidents, a 33% reduction in overtime spending, a 31% reduction in staff sick leave abuse, a 48% reduction in assaults of staff, with a 164% Increase in searches conducted and a 50% increase in weapons seized. In addition, several federal court-ordered consent decrees were reduced.
Rikers Island became one of the most efficient jail or prison systems in the country. I am proud to say I served as First Deputy, and Correction Commissioner during that time and my team and I produced those turn-around results.
Those insisting today that we have to close Rikers to eliminate the violence, corruption and mismanagement are just plain wrong. History proves that.
Rikers Island wasn't the problem. Leadership was.
Giuliani recognized that what was missing and sorely needed was a motivated and well trained department that was led by an executive team that was focused on management accountability and compliance with department policies and procedures, state laws, minimum correctional standards and federal laws and mandates.
We took one of the country's largest and most mismanaged and violent jail systems and turned it into an international model of safety, efficiency, and accountability. We didn't have to move the inmates off of Rikers to do that.
Today, we see that the executive team at the Department of Correction has failed to reduce the violence, corruption and mismanagement. That team, and Mayor DeBlasio, have decided to take Rikers inmates, known to be some of the most violent in custody, and move them into four new facilities in the four boroughs. DeBlasio and his team want to take the same inmates, the same staff, the same corruption, the same violence, and same mismanagement and put them in those new facilities. Not only is this entire idea ridiculous, it is dangerous. It is a waste of taxpayer money. A political ploy to relocate a problem instead of fixing it.
Rikers Island does not need to be closed.
The New York City Department of Correction needs new leadership and management…NOW.
I've seen the ads posted publicly by advocates, I've heard the commercials and I've read reports by ill-informed journalists who claim that Rikers has had a 100 year history of violence and mismanagement. Those reports are not true. I urge everyone to read the New York City Mayor's Management Reports between 1995 and 2002.
Rikers Island and the New York City Department of Correction have proven that – with the right leadership – violence can be reduced, corruption can be eliminated, and the facilities can be a safe and secure jail environment for inmates and officers alike.
You don't have to close Rikers Island. The Mayor and the people under his command just have to do their jobs.
© 2017 Newsmax. All rights reserved.