New York, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) – While New York City inmates in jails such as Rikers Island might be experiencing more lenient disciplinary rules, corrections officers are allegedly being hurt at work more and more.
In 2017, according to law dept. records, claims filed by corrections officers as well as other corrections dept.-related employees who have filed work comp claims increased 24 percent to 5,007 last year.
This rise in claims is said to have cost the city of New York a whopping $5.3 million in lost wages and medical expenses. In 2016 before the spike, the city had spent $4.4 million on 4,026 claims.
The New York Department of Correction (DOC) has stated that 2,086 of the workers’ compensation claims were filed due to incidents that were inmate-related. This number is up from 1,947 in 2016, and up from the 1,263 claims filed in 2015.
Peter Thorne, Deputy Commissioner of Public Information for the New York DOC told WorkersCompensation.com, “This increase in claims and payments reflects higher staffing levels, higher wages, and our strengthened emphasis on timely and proper claim reporting. As always, the safety and wellbeing of our staff is our top priority, and we continue to look for ways to make our workplace as safe as possible.”
However, labor leaders are saying that the comp claims are continually on the rise because the number in assaults against correction officers has risen steeply. Elias Husamudeen, Correction Officers Benevolent Association President, told the New York Post, “They have gone up every single year.”
The corrections officers’ labor union has placed some blame on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for the rise in injuries. In 2015, Mayor de Blasio placed a ban on solitary confinement for inmates that are under 21 years of age.
Husamudeen stated, “Taking that away from us was like taking a gun from a police officer and putting him in a crime-infested neighborhood. Unfortunately, the mayor seems to think crimes committed in jail should be treated differently than on the streets.” He also said he believes that the inmates are quicker to fight officers now because they know what the new policies are set forth by the Mayor.
The Mayor’s office didn’t return a request for comment by press time.
Husamudeen also noted that these new policy changes leave the officers with little to no choice, and even if an inmate attacks an officer. “…he will still get commissary and can eat potato chips and Doritos, he will still be able to get recreation, watch TV, still be able to use the phone.”
Mitch Abramson, the Press Officer for the DOC, has said that their office is constantly looking for ways to make their jails as safe as possible and to support the needs of their officers. This past February, the DOC announced a $4.5 million fund to rapidly increase security and safety measures that are designed to address increasing violence in jails.
To date, the City has made nearly $200 million in unprecedented investments for both officer and inmate safety. In efforts to see these claims decrease, the measures consist of: Adding dedicated Emergency Service Unit patrol groups, expanding the number of tasers, and boosting cooperation and coordination with NYPD on intelligence-sharing. It also includes gang intelligence training, and assigning NYPD gang intelligence staff to DOC facilities.