Cleaning (the Big) House: Correction Shake-Up Part of Image, Mission Overhaul

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dora Schriro, DOC commissioner (Courtesy of the DOC)

The recently resigned former top uniformed officer in the Department of Correction was forced out by a commissioner who is pressing ahead to improve the image and performance of the embattled agency, sources told WNYC.

Larry Davis, Sr., resigned as No. 2 jail official and highest ranking uniformed officer last weekend in the midst of a Department of Investigation probe into allegations that some of his subordinates were getting special treatment – including the ability to take a department SUV home.

Davis's exit from the agency comes as DOC Commissioner Dr. Dora Schriro is doubling down on internal integrity controls — including the establishment of an Office of Excellence headed by Florence Finkle, former director of the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Schriro said the DOC maintains "extremely high standards" for the conduct of its workforce, which, because the department has little public interaction, often faces "those 'Oz'-type stereotypes" that have no bearing on reality.

"And when there is the occasional person who works contrary to that and the organization there are consequences," Schriro told WNYC, "and we are not shy or slow to bring about those consequences."    

Schriro, a native New Yorker and a nationally recognized change agent, was tapped by Michael Bloomberg two years ago after the beating death of an inmate and evidence of inmate favoritism had tarnished the department’s reputation.  

She helped turn around the Arizona prison system under then Governor Janet Napolitano, and later joined Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security to triage the federal government's immigrant detention system.

To Arizona, she brought with her a program she had earlier pioneered called "Parallel Universe-Getting Ready," which helped inmates model what their life could be like once they served their time.

The Tucson Citizen reported the program cut inmate assaults by 46 percent and assaults on guards dropped by 41 percent.

"For those individuals who make good choices they can improve the condition of their detention," Schriro said. "And for those whose choices are poor than there are consequences. And those consequences are proportionate but swiftly and fairly applied."

Her makeover of the Arizona prison system became a national model for helping inmates stay out of jail, according to Michael Jacobson, a former Corrections commissioner who now leads the New York-based national research and policy organization the Vera Institute of Justice.

“She is very focused on mental illness, treatment building systems both inside and outside the facilities so that people don't recidivate again and again," he said.

An increasing number of those in DOC custody over the last five years are dealing with significant mental health issues, according to the mayor's management report, which finds they make up 30 percent of the average daily population.

The Bloomberg administration committed $1 billion to modernize the DOC’s facilities – including a new 1,500 bed facility at Rikers that Schriro hopes will give the agency the ability to identify medical, mental health and substance abuse problems.

"The facility will also have an expanded infirmary so that we will have the opportunity to place individuals in need of medical care or de-tox intervention in the same place and same time," she said.

The overall inmate population has decreased in large measure because of historically low crime rates in the city, officials and a report in the Scientific American recently found.

The daily inmate population in the city jail system reached its peak in the late 1980s and early 90s at 23,000. It is now below 13,000.

Jacobson, the former corrections commissioner, said that kind of decline also improves the odds that Schriro’s innovations can take root.

Attorney Leo Glickman, who specializes in representing both detainees and inmates in the city corrections system, said Schriro is setting the right tone.
“You can do all the programs and training you want to do  but it is not going to change the culture  of the corrections officer  in the facility until there is accountability top to bottom," said Glickman.
And past corruption and errant policies have been costly to resolve.

From 2009 to 2010, the amount paid by the city to settle legal claims against the DOC skyrocketed from $10.6 million to $43.7 million. Most of that came from one settlement for $33 million in a class action suit brought by people who claimed they were illegally strip searched.

The city had to settle two class actions on behalf of DOC — one in 2001 for $43 million dollars and a second one in 2002 for $5 million, for the same issue.

For attorney Glickman, who stays in close contact with his inmate clients, there are hopeful signs of change but still need for more progress.
“I believe the new Commissioner is doing a very good job in instituting programs that will ultimately benefit detainees and benefit the city; however, at this point, we are not seeing a reduction in the violence or the abuses of authority that occur on Rikers Island every day,” Glickman said.


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Comments [6]


Now that she's on to greener pastures, again, Schriro's record comes into focus:

Spike in Violence at Rikers Island—But Why?

Rikers for Teens: 'A Deep-Seated Culture of Violence'

Head of Rikers Says Jail System Is Broken

The press got spun by her for her entire tenure. What a travesty.

Aug. 09 2014 04:47 PM
AZELTEE from Arizona

I'm an Arizona DOC uniformed supervisor with 18 years on the job. We are still cleaning up Dora's mess she left. She is a master of manipulating information to make herself look good. Under her watch, staff assaults hit an all time high, they just weren't reported or the assault was classified as something else. Just ask the two Officers Dora left hostage in a tower for two weeks, to be repeatedly victimized and raped at the hands of two inmates. The hostage situation could have been terminated quickly, Dora didn't want any bad press. She is an inmate lover and valued inmates' rights over staff. Dora is the worst thing ever to happen to ADC, we are all glad she left with her "friend", Janet.

Feb. 28 2012 04:18 PM
NYCbyNumbers from New York, NY

The final MMR is out, but it's difficult to make sense of it.

There are places where the narrative doesn't agree with the numbers. For example, the narrative says there's a slight increase in clinic visits, but the tabular data shows a significant decrease.

Indicators were changed making it difficult to do year-to-year comparison.

According to the tabular data the following indicators are up compared to Fiscal 09:

Violent inmate-on-inmate incidents
Inmate assault on staff
Assault infractions
Weapons recovered
Average cost per inmate per year
Average length of incarceration
Mental health diagnosis

and the following indicators are down:

On-time delivery to court
Health clinic visits
Vocational training
School attendance
Average daily population

I was surprised to see the drop in school and vocational programs considering the programs you describe in your article. Maybe the new "skills-building activities" indicator explains that.

I don't see any evidence of reduced violence. Do you?

It would be interesting to know the amount of drugs DOC recovers with all those searches. That might be a good indicator of the level of security and/or corruption.

Sep. 28 2011 09:06 PM
CarreerC.O. from NYC

Its a true travesty that a man who has worked for DOC for over 30 years has his names tarnished by "allegations". The Commissioner should check into the other "Cronies" she has working for her, her Deputy Chief of Staff for instance. The allegations of subordinates getting special treatment is nothing new to DOC, in fact the case that they site in former Chief Davis' case has been going on since the Fraser administration. But hey the Deputy Chief of Security Carmine LaBruzzo didn't know that, nor did Deputy Chief of Staff Martin Murphy...Yeah right! You are the Deputy Chief of Security for the entire Department and you didn't know that an Officer assigned to one of the commands (Special Operations Division) under your charge is driving a department vehicle.. or the Deputy Chief of Staff who once worked for the Deputy Chief of Department and you didn't know that either? WOW someone is asleep at the wheel! Someone needs to look into how Carmine LaBruzzo became an Assistant Deputy Warden. They need to check if in fact he really had the credentials he needed to keep the rank when he got promoted. There may be a possibility that he had those College Transcripts forged or faked. Its nice to have friends at colleges that can do that. Right Carmine? Hmmmm something to think about huh? Oh well...

Aug. 23 2011 01:14 PM
Bob Hennelly

Thanks for writing.
I asked DOC about those exact numbers while doing the reporting. (FYI Mayor's February 2011 Management report is outdated and reflects the first four months of fiscal 2011 translated as July 2010 through October 2010.)
In response DOC says they have taken "substantive steps to reduce violence and during the past six months" that saw results that brought a decline in violence. "Reforms have included an increase in punitive segregation cells for inmates who have committed acts of violence and other infractions and need to be separated from other inmates; targeted efforts to reduce fights, especially among the adolescents; arrests of inmates who are found with contraband or who are perpetrators of violent acts; increasingly effective searches in jails with higher rates of violent incidents – as a result, we expect the number of weapons recovered will have increased by more than 50% this year when FY11 numbers are finalized," wrote DOC press spokeswoman Sharman Stein.
Stein also asserted:

* "In the second half of the fiscal year, there was a reduction in inmate fights—for the whole fiscal year 2011, fights were down by 3 percent."

*"The rate of violent inmate incidents resulting in a serious injury to an inmate -- which was reported in the PMMR as 1.3 (per 1000 Average Daily Population) declined over the last six months of the fiscal year by more than 5 percent."

* "The rate of serious injury to staff as a result of inmate assaults decreased by over 10 percent. "

All that said, DOC's legacy on things like strip searches and excessive force, all discussed in the story above, requires on going scrutiny.
Please note that it was a DOC critic who had the last word in the above installment.
Bob Hennelly

Aug. 22 2011 11:15 AM
NYCbyNumbers from New York, NY

Unnamed sources, huh? There's a lot of PR spin here, but the numbers tell a different story. The Mayor's Management Report of Feb 2011 shows the following year over year results for the Quarter:

Inmate-on-inmate violent incidents (slashings, stabbings, etc)
Up 12%

Inmate-on-staff assaults
Up 9%

Incidents and allegations of use of force
Up 18%

Too much spin and not enough reporting.

Aug. 22 2011 08:48 AM

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