ALBANY — The head of the state’s prisons system is threatening inmates with new penalties for assaulting jailers as attacks on corrections officers have doubled in recent years despite the number of people behind bars having plummeted more than 40 percent.
“There are some individuals confined within the Department who lately, and without warning or provocation, have chosen to commit extremely serious assaults against staff,” wrote State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci to all incarcerated individuals on Monday, in a memo obtained by The Post.
“This includes civilian as well as security staff, and female as well as male staff,” he said.
“The trend I am seeing as of late, in terms of sheer savagery of the assault, the randomness of the assault and the lack of any precipitating event before the assault, is extremely disturbing. This will not be tolerated,” he added.
As of Sunday, there have been 1022 assaults on corrections staff so far this year. That’s double the 524 reported for all of 2012, even though there is still one month left in 2021 — which is outpacing assaults recorded over the previous two years.
There are roughly 31,400 people in state-run facilities presently, down from the over 54,000 recorded in 2012.
“Make no mistake about it. The Department will do everything within its power to keep everyone safe from assault, regardless of whether the person is an employee, other incarcerated individual, volunteer, visitor, or contractor,” warned Annucci.
“This in [turn] means holding the guilty party fully accountable in a court of law.”
He added that prisoners slapped with a new felony conviction could be sentenced as a persistent offender, which could lead to a new sentence of up to life in prison.
But Mike Powers, president of the NYS Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, slammed DOCCS, argued the push by state officials to limit the use of solitary confinement caused the jump in attacks.
“This memo misses the mark in so many ways and is extremely disturbing. To us, it means that the State’s progressive policies have watered down the disciplinary system so much that their only deterrent to keeping inmates from assaulting staff is a sternly worded memo and relying on overtaxed [district attorneys] offices to bring forth charges,” he told The Post.
The union filed a federal lawsuit in Albany last year against ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and DOCCS over the recently passed “HALT” Solitary Confinement Act, which limits an officer’s ability to frequently utilize solitary confinement as punishment.
A DOCCS spokesperson said the department “needs to run a balanced system where everyone can feel safe.”
“In order to continue to maintain safety, we must have a disciplinary system that affords these incarcerated individuals with meaningful programs to address their poor decisions, while also leveraging criminal prosecution,” the rep added.