New York City Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte is sending more dangerous jail inmates from the city to lockups around the state, in an attempt to curb violence on Rikers Island, the New York Daily News reports. The number of inmates transferred from New York City went up by 47 percent, from 36 in 2011 to 53 last year, according to records obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request. While the raw numbers represent a small portion of the 10,000 city inmates, sources say most of the people transferred are hardened gang members responsible for repeated attacks on staff and other prisoners.
Critics say the transfer program is a poor way of dealing with violence. “Substitute jail orders are not effective as a violence reduction strategy,” said former Acting Correction Commissioner Mark Cranston. Many of the inmates were later returned to Rikers Island because they continued their violent ways in their new environments, he added. “If they want to get back to Rikers, the first thing they are going to do is act out to get sent back,” Cranston said. Steven Sidburry, 25, was sent to the Albany County jail to separate him from gang members at Rikers in 2015. Sidburry, who is charged with murder and arson, was involved in more than 40 violent assaults in New York City jails before his transfer. Ponte agreed to pay the cash-strapped Albany County jail $100 a day to supervise Sidburry, who is widely known by his nickname “John Doe.” The move didn’t last long. Sidburry slashed an inmate, so fed-up Albany officials returned him to the city. Back in New York, Sidburry continued to act out, slashing a rival detainee in the face in March. He’s since been placed in solitary confinement until his trial.