What New York City’s Village Voice calls a shadowy jail “violence reduction” unit linked to a top Corrections Department official is under investigation for falsifying reports, beating inmates, and violating department regulations. The plainclothes unit, known as the “violence-reduction task force” or “special search squad,” allegedly operated outside the rules. The unit was not properly cleared to perform sensitive investigative work, and its members were improperly assigned to the unit and entered jails without following security procedures.
Internal investigations come during a difficult period in Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro’s tenure. Slashings, fights, attacks on correction officers, and staff uses of force are all on the rise this year. At least 40 slashings were officially recorded at the Rikers Island jail in the first six months of this year, a rate double that of last year. There were 84 major assaults on staff by inmates. A federal investigation into violence and misreporting of fights and other incidents is ongoing, and a major class action lawsuit alleging widespread continued staff violence against inmates is on file. That lawsuit alleges that Schriro promoted to senior positions staffers who have long histories of encouraging excessive force against inmates.