NYC DOC Spends $100,000 on 10 Sniper Rifles for Troubled Prisons: Record Breaking News

New York’s Justice Department is spending nearly $100,000 to buy 10 sniper rifles for Rikers Island as it grapples with criticism over security issues at the troubled prison, The Post has learned.

The DOC acquired the “long-range M-10 rifles and magazines” from Amchar Wholesale Inc, a Rochester-based gun supplier, for $93,845, according to a contract signed by the city board in September.

A DOC spokesman said the guns – which cost nearly $10,000 each – would be used by a specially trained team “in exceptional, high-risk situations” rather than for everyday use.

But the purchase has raised eyebrows from some police sources and pundits, who wondered why the long-range sniper rifles would be needed for an agency largely prison-equipped.

“It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money, as usual,” said an active law enforcement source.

The arms purchase comes as the DOC – which had a budget of more than $1 billion in fiscal 2022 – is under fire over dangerous and chaotic conditions in Rikers, which was home to some 5,940 prisoners as of Nov. 1.

Riker's Island
Rikers Island grapples with criticism over security issues at troubled prison
WireImage/ Debra L. Rothenberg

The trouble-plagued lockdown has seen a spike in inmate deaths, with a recent critical report from the State Board of Correction detailing staff shortages in some of the incidents. There have been 18 deaths in custody so far this year, the highest annual death toll since 2013.

Violence by city law enforcement officials is also at its highest level since 2016, according to a recent surveillance report.

These and other problems at the sprawling prison complex also prompted inmate attorneys to seek federal oversight, but those efforts were shot down by a Manhattan judge last week.

A source who worked at Rikers Island for 25 years and recently retired said the facility has an emergency services unit equipped to respond to various incidents, including riot control, inmate escapes and perimeter security. But he said the special forces officers were unlikely to be the ones using the sniper rifles.

Long-range M-10 rifles
The DOC bought the “long-range M-10 rifles and magazines” from Amchar Wholesale Inc, a Rochester-based arms supplier.
Getty Images / Brian Blanco

“It’s not like anyone is going to storm Rikers Island and if they do I’m pretty sure they have enough ammo to fight it,” the source said. “I would say keep guns like that for the NYPD, the ATF, the narcotics officers.”

The last time a riot broke out in Rikers appears to have been in 2014, although a group of newly arrived inmates briefly took control of the reception unit earlier this month and there have been other recent incidents of chaos and attacks on prison guards.

Ex-NYPD cop Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, also said the purchase was odd, joking, “What is this Alcatraz?”

“It’s not like people are being broken out of Rikers,” O’Donnell said. “[The DOC’s] Job is janitor. Your job is to secure people. It would be a heavy burden for them to formulate a justification for this type of purchase.”

He added, “I suppose they might be playing an exotic possibility where someone could show up in a little boat and magic a prisoner away.”

The active law enforcement source also asked, “What the heck do they need sniper rifles for?”

Riker's correctional facility
The gun purchase comes as the DOC comes under fire over dangerous and chaotic conditions at Rikers.
Getty Images/Gary Hershorn

“What are they, the military? Instead of concentrating on that, they should try to figure out how to keep all these prisoners from dying.”

The DOC spokesman noted that the purchase would serve to upgrade an arsenal of eight rifles purchased more than a decade ago. He gave no details on the cost of the ancient guns or what type they were.

“The Department of Correction is a law enforcement agency; Our members of the service are also first responders deployed to critical incidents as needed at Department facilities on and off Rikers Island,” the representative said in a statement.

Benny Boscio, president of the Benevolent Association of Correction Officers, defended the purchase, saying it could help save lives in the event of a riot.

“The fact is, in the event of a hostage crisis or riot, the equipment available to our elite ESU teams to help save the lives of staff and inmates in the event of a hostage situation or riot has not improved significantly in many years,” Boscio said in a statement . “We hope this investment is one of many important upgrades that will help our officers maintain security in our prisons.”

A representative for Amchar Wholesale Inc. declined to give details of how many prisons are buying sniper rifles. NYC DOC Spends $100,000 on 10 Sniper Rifles for Troubled Prisons: Record Breaking News


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