“Gov. Andrew Cuomo has strengthened the state office that investigates misconduct by prison guards, and also proposed legislation that would make it easier to dismiss corrections officers who commit crimes on the job.These are good first steps toward rooting out the culture of violence that has long dominated the prison system. The next task is to renegotiate a recently expired union contract that has shielded brutal or unqualified guards from accountability in any number of ways.As The Times and the Marshall Project reported jointly in April, the correction department’s internal affairs unit — which is responsible for investigating misconduct — has historically been weak and ineffective, partly because it relied too heavily on career corrections officers who lacked investigative experience and were also wary of offending fellow officers.”
The scandal of the brutality of New York State prisons turns my stomach. Prison guards in New York are out of control. The Prison Guards Union in New York State should be make illegal, for acting as an organized crime machine.
“Any serious effort to repair criminal justice in New York City must do something about Rikers Island, the jail complex in the East River where justice goes to die, or at least be severely beaten.The City Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, acknowledged this in her State of the City address this month, when she announced that the state’s former chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, would lead a commission to comprehensively examine the city’s criminal justice system. Its mission will be to reduce the jail population, now at about 10,000, enough to make it possible to consider shutting Rikers down for good.”
Maybe Rikers should be closed, because of the transportation problem, or the reduction of inmates in the system. But the problems of brutality and corruption in the system still need to be addressed. In a better world, we would ban prison guard and police unions. People with so much power over prisoners and the public should not be able to hide bad behavior behind curtains of union protection, which is a disgrace to unionism and the nation. And, the National Guard or the military should take over Riker’s Island immediately, with all the guards there eventually fired, laid off or prosecuted, after an intense study of who the real bullies and torturers wearing a uniform are. Union leaders who protected criminal behavior should also be prosecuted.
By Barack Obama January 25
Barack Obama is president of the United States.
“In 2010, a 16-year-old named Kalief Browder from the Bronx was accused of stealing a backpack. He was sent to Rikers Island to await trial, where he reportedly endured unspeakable violence at the hands of inmates and guards — and spent nearly two years in solitary confinement.
In 2013, Kalief was released, having never stood trial. He completed a successful semester at Bronx Community College. But life was a constant struggle to recover from the trauma of being locked up alone for 23 hours a day. One Saturday, he committed suicide at home. He was just 22 years old.”
“President Obama sent a powerful message last week when he barred federal prisons from holding juveniles in solitary confinement and ordered the Bureau of Prisons to undertake sweeping changes in how solitary is used throughout the federal system.By taking a new course at the federal level, Mr. Obama hopes to accelerate changes that are already underway in many state and local corrections systems.Solitary confinement, which is often used arbitrarily and to punish minor rule infractions, is a form of torture. It is psychologically damaging even to healthy people and increases the likelihood of suicide among the young and the mentally ill.”
“IF the questions that came up during oral argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association on Monday are any guide, the ruling bloc of conservative justices appears ready to render a decision later this year that would significantly weaken public sector labor unions.By stripping these unions of key financial resources — their fair share of fees provided by nonmembers — the court would upend a longstanding precedent. A decision in favor of the plaintiff would effectively slam the door on an era in which some conservatives joined liberals in recognizing that vibrant unions help make our democracy work. This is radicalism, not conservatism.”
I wish I could see clearly through this swamp of conflicts. To stop moving like a yo yo, I need to bring up ultimate goals. First, we need to make Police and Prison Guard unions illegal, because too often they protect bullies, scoundrels and criminals. Ideally, we would simply dismantle these unions, because they have played a part in crimes against humanity by overprotected police officers and prison guards. If necessary, I would weaken most unions, just to dismantle these two types, because crimes against humanity are not acceptable. These people are our guards and enforcers. Who guards the guards is a critical part of our safety, and should not be up to the guards themselves. The guardians of public safety require external oversight. Their unions are guilty over and over again of protecting their bullies and scoundrels from external oversight.
I might support the new restrictions under debate, because teacher unions are guilty of putting seniority over quality, their comfort over excellence in education. Since they have not acted in the public interest on such core matters, they should be trimmed down till they wake up to the need to take care of their students, as well as themselves.
“The union contract has presented serious obstacles to investigating cases like this one. A particularly egregious provision allows guards to essentially obstruct investigations by refusing to answer questions from police agencies. When the State Police investigated the Williams beating, 11 of the 15 guards they sought to question simply declined to cooperate.Inmates who had witnessed the assault were fearful that the same thing would happen to them. To get their stories, the corrections department had to relocate five of them to other prisons.”