New York City Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte reminded jail bosses in an unusual memo that officers can use force to break up fights and slashing attacks behind bars, reports the New York Daily News. “In recent weeks staff have encountered inmates in possession of weapons who were attempting to or who have caused injury to another inmate and were refusing orders to cease their actions and drop their weapon,” Ponte said. “All staff are reminded that force may be used against an inmate.”
Ponte said officers can use force when they need to defend themselves or to prevent an escape. They can also use force to stop inmates from damaging property or harming themselves. Force should only be used as a last resort “and when there is no practical alternative available to prevent serious physical injury,” his order says. The order comes as the department struggles to rework its use-of-force policy as part of a broad federal settlement designed to curtail officer abuse of inmates. Correction union officer Elias Husamudeen called Ponte’s memo “the most confusing thing to a correction officer. You can use force but you can’t use it.” Correction officers are under scrutiny, as the inmate-on-inmate bloodshed persists. The number of stabbings and slashings increased from 131 in 2015 to 155 in 2016.