New York correctional officers are fleeing in droves

City correctional officers use their release cards and flee the job in droves.

More than 3,500 civil servants have quit or retired since 2019, with 559 leaving the job this year alone, according to union allegations.

The 35% drop in staff numbers — 6,194 officers compared to 9,599 in 2019 — outpaces the 27% drop in the inmate population over the period, data from the union shows.

And there aren’t enough recruits to fill the gap: According to the union, only 120 new civil servants have been hired since January.

Prison officers are fleeing as Rikers Island has become more violent – with 1,148 incidents of uniformed staff being attacked this year, the union said. In addition, 12 inmates have died at Rikers so far this year.

Jonathan Suarez, who graduated from the academy in 2017, resigned on July 13 after five years and a month on the job.

“I can no longer justify the risk versus the reward,” the Bronx-born 30-year-old wrote in his resignation letter, citing “poor pay and benefits for abuse from all levels of supervisors, everyday safety issues and high levels of stress.”

Former correctional officer Jonathan Suarez said gangs took over Rikers Island thanks to lax rules.
Former correctional officer Jonathan Suarez said gangs took over Rikers Island thanks to lax rules.
Helayne Seidman

Suarez said he often worked around the clock at George R. Vierno’s prison in Rikers, where one officer was often in charge of 45-48 inmates.

“I was afraid to walk through the roof and drive over it [Rikers Island] Bridge and wondering if it was my day to get hurt,” the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Suarez told the Post, noting that he was spat on, assaulted, punched in the face and pelted with feces became.

If he tries to defend himself or use violence to get things under control, he’s the one who gets texted, Suarez said.

Ex-Corrections Officer Jonathan Suarez served more than five years.
Ex-Corrections Officer Jonathan Suarez served more than five years.
Courtesy of Jonathan Suarez

“If inmates get in trouble now, they don’t go to the pits. Everything is one-sided. You don’t see what the officers on the ground are going through,” he said. “Officials are attacked daily and it is not safe for the inmates either. The gang members control the prisons.”

As of August 22, there were 5,702 inmates at Rikers, according to DOC data, up from 7,041 in 2019. Of those pre-trial detainees, 1,512 are charged with murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter; 1,068 are accused of burglary or robbery; 523 are charged with rape or sexual assault and 522 are charged with assault.

Former correctional officer Christine Frank, 51, had 16 years on the job and was just four years away from retirement when she left the DOC in January. At the time, she was seeing a therapist and taking anxiety medication.

Former proofreader Jonathan Suarez said
Former proofreader Jonathan Suarez said “poor pay and benefits” pushed him out of the stressful job.
Helayne Seidman

Frank said she endured sexual assault threats and busted many drug deals that angered inmates, who retaliated by “splashing” them with everything from water to urine.

She’s going back to school to become a nurse.

“I would have stayed [on the job] but my state of mind means more to me than money. There is no order and the officers’ hands are tied. They can’t do their job,” Frank said.

The de Blasio administration never backed the officers, Suarez said, adding that lawmakers showed their true colors in June when they refused to honor City Hall’s budget request for an additional 574 corrections officers.

382 recruits (pictured being sworn in) completed the NYC Corrections Department's training program today.
Only 120 correctional officers have joined the Correctional Authority this year.
Gregory P. Mango

“We’re not even close to keeping up with skyrocketing attrition rates,” Benny Boscio Jr., president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, said angrily.

“Secure staffing is important. Whether it’s policing residential areas, providing assistance during violent incidents, preventing suicides, transporting inmates to their doctor’s appointments, and running inmate programs, all roads to a safe prison system lead to maintaining a safe staffing level,” he said.

The DOC said its figures show 3,318 officers have resigned or retired since 2019 and the department has hired 667 officers over the past three years. As of September 2, 6,305 correctional officers were on duty, compared with 9,089 at the same time in 2019, down 31%, DOC statistics show.

“We are committed to not only improving conditions in our prisons, but also to supporting our staff in accomplishing one of the toughest jobs alive,” said a DOC spokeswoman. New York correctional officers are fleeing in droves


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