Corrections officers rally at Capital

 ALBANY – The state’s prison guards are warning about the size of staff cutbacks. They rallied Tuesday at the Capitol.

Where the people who staff the state’s prisons are concerned, conditions have deteriorated and are still getting worse. While the administration says inmate population is shrinking, meaning facilities can close and fewer corrections officers are needed, the rank and file see it differently.

As hundreds of corrections officers rallied at the Capitol, the leaders of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association voiced their complaints publicly — defying what they say is a strongly encouraged administration policy.

“Our members, who know first hand how poorly our prisons are staffed, are deterred from going to the local press on prison matters. They’re discouraged from speaking out at all through intimidation and threats of internal departmental charges,” union Vice President Randy Page said.

Frederick Wellman and Jose Pomales say they work at Brooklyn Developmental Center – a secure detention facility run by the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disability.

“The job has changed that they’re always trying to get rid of us, but they need us,” Wellman said.

“Safety is a concern, not just for us, the community, but the people that we take care of, which is the patients,” Pomales added.

Dave Viddivo says he worked 20 years in the state’s prisons, much of that time at Greene County Correctional.

“The public believe that inmates are in cells 24 hours a day, which is not the case whatsoever. In a medium correctional facility setting, they’re in dormitory style set-ups where there is 60 inmates with only one correctional officer watching those inmates on an eight hour shift. Our problem with cuts in staff is that one officer watching 60 inmates every day is not going to have the available staff to assist him if an emergency situation were to arise,” Viddivo said.

The correction officer protest may be a day late and a dollar short as the old cliché goes. The state budget reflecting prison reductions was passed two months ago.

Only Assembly Republicans were involved in Tuesday’s hearing. While they may be symphathetic to the complaints, they control less than one-third of the Assembly’s votes. That’s not enough to change legislation.



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