May 25, 2016
Commissioner Ponte’s de-escalation training results in 41 percent fewer serious assaults on staff; 50 percent fewer serious uses of force
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte today announced nearly 2,000 new correction officers have completed new training in de-escalation techniques to tamp down conflicts and increase safety in City jails, or about 22 percent of the total officer corps. This training has resulted in fewer serious assaults on staff and fewer serious uses of force toward inmates.
“Safety in our jails has always been a top priority for my office and Commissioner Ponte,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The drop in assaults on staff and serious uses of force demonstrates that our investment in de-escalation training is paying off. Thanks to Commissioner Ponte and the department’s hardworking officers, we are taking significant steps toward building a culture of safety in our jails.”
“We are giving our officers the tools they need to manage inmate behavior without resorting to unnecessary uses of force – and its working,” said Commissioner Ponte. “The dedicated men and women who serve in our jails each day are now equipped with more training and tools to keep our jails safe – and officers and inmates alike are benefitting from fewer serious incidents of violence in our jails.”
In the first four months of 2016, assaults on staff resulting in serious injuries declined 41 percent and assaults on staff resulting in minor injuries declined 22 percent; overall assaults on staff dropped 17 percent. At the same time, uses of force resulting in serious injuries declined 50 percent and uses of force with minor injuries fell 17 percent.
Since becoming Commissioner in April 2014, Ponte has implemented systemic reforms to improve the performance of DOC staff and reduce violence across the Department. Ponte immediately began revising the curriculum at the Correction Academy so that the rising officer corps would be trained on the best evidence-based practices to achieve those goals. The new training, which comes as part of a variety of new courses, has added an additional two weeks and three days, or 144 hours, to the Academy curriculum and has helped the Department lower the number of serious assaults on staff and serious uses of force.
The revised curriculum that emphasizes de-escalation techniques includes a Safe Crisis Management course that trains officers dealing with adolescents on adolescent psychology, and Mental Health First Aid to recognize the signs of distress in mentally ill inmates. Other courses emphasizing de-escalation techniques are being added to reflect the Department’s new Use of Force policy. New or revised Academy courses including de-escalation techniques introduced under Ponte include:
The unprecedented size of this graduating class and the expected even larger sizes of the upcoming recruit classes are designed to help increase the headcount at DOC and help relieve staff shortages. Commissioner Ponte made the announcement as 623 new officers graduated the New York City Correction Academy, the largest class ever, at a ceremony at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn.
“I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Joseph Ponte for investing in de-escalating training for corrections officers and for recognizing that our City jails are safer when COs are armed with the tools they need to address difficult situations without resorting to violence. The drop in number of assaults proves what we already know: de-escalation training works. I commend the nearly 2,000 COs who went through this training program and thank everyone involved in correctional care for their commitment to ending the cycle of violence on Rikers Island,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety.
"While welcoming some of the changes in policy and the new training tools, the Correction Guardians Association commends the Mayor and Commissioner for the large correction classes with all the new officers being trained in de-escalation techniques, and for keeping safety on the forefront", said Vincent Capers, President of NYC Correction Guardians Association.
"The Brooklyn Hispanic Chamber of Commerce once again applauds the efforts of the Mayor’s Office to revamp the negligence that we have had in reference to de-escalation techniques in Rikers Island. Working with the many youth and small business owners that have had problems with the law, I know that we need to have a protective process in place. The Chamber also applauds the adding of the additional 1,900 new officers, this is an unprecedented effort. The success of the de-escalation training is an amazing part of the jail and prison overhaul that is being done by Mayor Bill de Blasio", said Rick Miranda, President and CEO of The Brooklyn Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
"Mayor de Blasio has done a good thing. It is vitally important that our correction officers know how to interact with our young people. Our correction officers being trained in de-escalation techniques will help to restore respect in our correction facilities between the officers and the inmates. Additionally, it will teach our young people how to respectfully engaged with our officers because the officers will lead by example", said Salema Davis, Executive Director of the George Walker Foundation.
“Working with faith communities in East Harlem providing a re-entry on-ramp for parolees, we have seen too many young adults devastated by violence and abuse on Riker's Island leaving them more damaged when they come out than when they go in. For this reason it is heartening to hear of the de-escalation trainings that the Department of Corrections is instituting to bring a more humane environment to New York's jails and prisons. It is a great step forward,” said Reverend Chloe Breyer of the Interfaith Center of New York.
“It is clear that efforts to reduce conflict and increase safety in our jails benefit both the community of Correction Officers as well as the those who are incarcerated and their respective communities. Our work to bring meditation and contemplative support to both the incarcerated and officer populations at Rikers Island Correctional Facility has indeed shown that there is a desire for the basic needs for respect, empowerment and well-being throughout the City jails,” said Justin von Bujdoss, Director of Rangjung Prison Dharma Project.
About the Graduating Class
The graduating class of 382 men and 241 women comes from a wide range of backgrounds. This diverse class possesses the combined educational expertise of 24 master’s degrees, 157 bachelor’s degrees, and 117 associate’s degree, 327 have some college credits and 81 have prior experience as a peace officer. The average age of the class is 30.
The Department of Correction is often regarded as a family and is known for employing multiple generations of family members. This Recruit class is no different, with 108 Recruits having family members who are currently on the job. These relatives include six sisters, nine brothers, nine aunts, 20 mothers, 18 fathers, 27 cousins, ten uncles and three husbands.
The class includes Recruit Officers from every borough with Brooklyn – at 203 – contributing the largest number, and 151 from Queens, 69 from the Bronx, 29 from Manhattan and 42 from Staten Island. In addition, there are 18 from Westchester, 42 from Suffolk County and 53 from Nassau County in Long Island, and five from Rockland County, ten from Orange County and one from Dutchess County.
The class valedictorian is Recruit Officer Jonathan Forte. The salutatorian is Recruit Officer Michael Eckerle. The class Top Gun at the weapons training is Recruit Officer Thomas Congero who qualified 3 times, scoring 100 on his written exam and scoring 100 on his Firearms and Tactics Unit exam.
About the New York City Department of Correction
The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) provides for the care, custody and control of persons accused of crimes or convicted and sentenced to one year or less of jail time. The Department manages 12 inmate facilities, 9 of which are located on Rikers Island. In addition, the Department operates two hospital Prison Wards (Bellevue and Elmhurst hospitals) and court holding facilities in each borough. During Fiscal Year 2015, the Department handled over 67,000 admissions and managed an average daily inmate population of approximately 10,240 individuals.