Eighteen months after New York City’s Village Voice reported cases of jail guards using inmates as enforcers, an indictment unsealed Jan. 22 alleges that two guards handpicked and oversaw a gang of inmates who beat and terrorized other inmates, and extorted money and privileges from them over a four-month period, culminating in the murder by inmates of an 18-year-old prisoner. They called their operation “The Program.”
The Voice says that only after the killing did Correction Commissioner Martin Horn suspend several officers, transfer several mid-level managers, force the retirement of a chief, and reshuffle the roles of his senior staff. Horn said he installed video cameras in jails and now has the right to monitor inmates’ phone conversations. Horn spokesman Stephen Morello provided a list of things the commissioner has done and is doing to address problems, including improving the staff-inmate ratio in high-risk teen housing areas to 1 in 25–a move that advocates have been demanding for years. “While one inmate homicide is too many, the NYC jails compare quite favorably with other large city systems on this point,” Morello says, citing federal stats that show the homicide rate in the city jails being far better than those of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or Chicago.