On December 5, the Board of Correction received a request for a "renewal of the six (6) month limited variance to §1-17(d)(2) of the Board's Minimum Standards (Punitive Segregation) to allow the Department, in highly exceptional circumstances presenting safety and security concerns, to waive the requirement that inmates be immediately released from punitive segregation for seven (7) days after they have been held in punitive segregation for thirty (30) consecutive days, which was first granted by the Board in September 20151 and last renewed at the June 14, 2016 public meeting."
On November 15, the New York City Board of Correction, an independent oversight Board for the City's jail system, voted to adopt final rules designed to detect, prevent, and respond to sexual abuse and sexual harassment of persons incarcerated in jails and other facilities operated by the NYC Department of Correction (DOC). The adopted rules incorporate many elements of the Department of Justice's Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards, enacted in response to the epidemic of sexual violence in the nation’s prisons and jails. This new chapter of the Board's Minimum Standards is the first it has issued since 1991. These new Standards will go into effect on January 2, 2017.
The Board has cancelled a special meeting it had scheduled for November 9, 2016. Instead, the Board will add the agenda of that meeting onto the agenda of its November 15, 2016 meeting. Download the November 15 meeting agenda (subject to change).
The November 15, 2016 meeting will begin at 9:00 AM at 125 Worth Street, Second Floor Auditorium, New York, NY 10013. The public will have an opportunity to comment near the beginning of the meeting regarding any Board votes on the agenda and at the end of the meeting regarding any other topic. Due to the number of issues on the agenda and based on NYS guidance on conducting public meetings, public comment will be limited to four minutes per speaker. Additionally, the Board welcomes written comments prior to or after the meeting. Written comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or given to the welcome table on the day of the meeting.
On November 2, 2016, the NYC Board of Correction sent the NYC Department of Correction a Notice of Violation of Minimum Standards. The document is available on the Board’s website. These violations are a result of the Department's extended 13-day lock-down in five housing units at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center (OBCC). The lockdown commenced on Friday, October 21, 2016.
That evening, the Board received an emergency variance request from the Department for the five OBCC housing areas. The request is available on the Board's website. The Department seeks variances from Minimum Standards 1-03(c) (Personal hygiene, regarding shaving), 1-05 (Lock-in), 1-07 (Practice of religion), 1-08(f) (Access to courts and legal services, regarding law library), The Department seeks the variance through November 13.
The Board expects to address the violations and the emergency variance request at an upcoming public meeting.
On October 11, 2016, the Board of Correction published ‘A Study of the Department of Correction Inmate Grievance and Request Program.’ To further objectives related to its City Charter responsibilities, its history of work in this area, and as part of its responsibility to monitor jail conditions, the Board undertook an assessment of the inmate grievance program operated by the Department. The Board sought to understand the current patterns and trends in filing and responding to grievances and the effectiveness, consistency and timeliness of the current system. The report concludes with recommendations and next steps. The Department of Correction responded to the report in a letter to the Board.
On October 26, 2016, the Board added a new Document Search tool to its website. Users can now search the content of the many reports, meeting minutes, and other PDFs on the Board’s website. The Board will continue to add historic and current documents to the website.
The Board of Correction received a declaration of an emergency situation at OBCC from DOC on the evening of October 21, 2016 and on the morning of October 23, 2016. On October 22, the Board received a request for an emergency variance.
In its cover email to the Board, the Department additionally sought a variance from Minimum Standard § 1-05 (Lock-in) which they said was inadvertently omitted from the letter. The Department labeled the request confidential pending their investigation into multiple incidents at OBCC. On October 25, 2016, the Department removed the confidential mark for this distributed version of the letter. Investigations have concluded and the lockdown was lifted in all dormitory areas on Saturday and in all but five housing areas yesterday. Mental observation units were not included as part of the lockdown.
Executive Director Martha W. King and her Special Assistant Bennett Stein attended this year’s annual conference of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE). The 21st annual conference’s theme was “Confronting Systemic Injustice.” The conference was held September 25 – 29, 2016.
For the first time in its history, NACOLE included a day-long track on civilian oversight of correctional institutions. ED King was invited to serve on a panel on “Jail Safety.” Bennett received NACOLE’s Presidents’ Scholarship Award, for early-career professionals.
On October 21, 2016, BOC and DOC hosted the 12 Coro Fellows for a discussion about the NYC jails, the value of independent oversight, and the relationship between the Board and the Department. After the discussion, the Fellows went to the George R. Vierno Center (GRVC) on Rikers Island.
The Coro Fellowship is a nine-month program that uses the City as a classroom to train leaders and future leaders in the City. The Fellowship includes field placements, seminars, leadership breakfasts, and focus weeks
On September 29, 2016, the Board of Correction sent the Department of Correction a Notice of Violation of several Minimum Standards in connection with the Department's current operations at West Facility.
On September 12, 2016, the Board of Correction sent the Department of Correction a Notice of Violation of several Minimum Standards, including 1-05 ("Lock-in"). These violations are a result of the Department's lock-down of the Brooklyn Detention Complex (BKDC) commencing on Friday, September 9, 2016 and continuing to the time the letter was sent.
On September 9, 2016, the NYC Board of Correction received a request for an emergency variance from the NYC Department of Correction. The request is related to the following Minimum Standards at Brooklyn Detention Complex (BKDC): §§1-03 (Personal Hygiene), 1-06 (Recreation), 1-07 (Religion), 1-08(f) (Access to Courts and Legal Services), 1-09 (Visitation), and 1-10 (Telephone Calls). DOC writes that BKDC’s housing areas will be locked down for most of this weekend “to allow staff to conduct thorough searches and intelligence investigations, following a series of slashes at the facility.”
Board Hires Deputy Executive Director to Lead Its Monitoring Team
In August 2016, the Board of Correction welcomed Nicole Austin-Best as its Deputy Executive Director of Monitoring, a new executive position to lead its growing monitoring team. Prior to joining the Board, Nicole served, since 2005, as a court-appointed monitor in auditing, investigating and ensuring compliance of the New York City Department of Correction with the provisions of various court orders pursuant to the Benjamin consent decree. These federal court orders mandate conditions of confinement in the City's jails in accordance with constitutional standards. Nicole's court-appointed work mirrors what she will be called upon to do as our Monitoring DED - lead the Board's efforts to monitor, assess and document DOC's and NYC Health + Hospitals' compliance with BOC's Minimum Standards governing jail conditions and the provision of health and mental health care services to incarcerated individuals. Recently, she also served as an Internal Auditor and Ethics Officer for the Anchorage Policy Department. Nicole holds two Master's Degrees, one in Business and Policy Studies (Empire State College) and the other in Rehabilitation and Counseling (New York University), and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Sociology (Queens College).
On July 7, 2016, the Board of Correction sent the Department of Correction a Notice of Violation of Minimum Standard 1-17(b)(1)(ii). This standard requires, as of January 1, 2016, the exclusion of inmates ages 18 through 21 from punitive segregation.
On June 30, 2016, the Department requested another variance -- for an additional six months -- to end punitve segregation for inmates ages 19 through 21. This request is on the agenda for the Board of Correction's July 12, 2016 public meeting.
On May 9, 2016, the Board's Executive Director Martha King provided testimony to the City Council's Finance and Fire & Criminal Justice Committees. Download ED King's written statement.
At the Board's March 8, 2016 Public Meeting, Executive Director Martha King announced the launch of a three month Board of Correction study of the inmate grievance system. The study will include an evaluation of the current DOC grievance process, national best practices, an analysis of all 2015 inmate grievance data, including reviews of grievances by type, facility, and age group, and random case audits on select inmate grievances. The study will culminate in recommendations to improve the existing system.
As required by the City Charter, the Board played an integral role in the development of the grievance system initially and the Board will continue to play a significant role in the maintenance, oversight, and improvement of this crucial system.
At the Board's March 8, 2016 Public Meeting, Executive Director Martha King announced that the Board will release the agency's strategic update this summer. As June 2016 will mark Executive Director King's first year leading the agency, the Board will publish its updated plans and priorities. These will include:
This summer, the Board will also release its first annual report in 18 years and its first, monthly Key Performance Indicators (KPI) Dashboard. The KPI Dashboard will monitor compliance with major portions of our standards in the adolescent and young adult jails.
The Board of Correction re-organized its website in February 2016. All records related to public meetings are now posted on the Public Meetings section of our website. The Board is currently working on a full website update to be completed in the coming months.
On February 5, 2016, the Board published an analysis of the NYC Department of Correction's 66 punitive segregation override requests and five seven-day waiver requests that the DOC Chief of Department received from September 12, 2015 to December 31, 2015.
The third quarterly report will be published in May 2016 and will, more broadly, cover the Board's recent reforms in this area and the Department's reductions in punitive segregation.
The Board of Correction welcomes Nashla Rivas Salas as its new Director of Research and Implementation. Nashla comes to the Board by way of the NYC Independent Budget Office. Nashla joined IBO in June 2002 as a communications assistant. In 2006, she became a senior budget and policy analyst there with a focus on juvenile justice, youth, aging, corrections, and probation. Nashla started with the Board in January 2016.