Joseph Ponte, who was appointed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio three years ago to end the chaos at the Rikers Island jail, is stepping down as correction commissioner. The move came amid revelations about mismanagement and dysfunction at the highest levels of the city’s jail agency. Two city investigations accused him of misusing his city vehicle, spending extended periods out of state away from his job overseeing the jails and failing to notify city officials about an effort by his internal affairs staff to spy on city investigators.
The city wants to reduce violence at the Rkers Island jail complex, so they send dangerous inmates out of the city. “If they want to get back to “Rikers, the first thing they are going to do is act out to get sent back,” says former jail official Mark Cranston.
NYC correction chief Joseph Ponte removed his agency’s head of internal affairs after accusations that the official, Gregory Kuczinski, spied on city investigators as they were conducting undercover anticorruption operations at the Rikers Island jail complex.
The death of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez in a state prison got national attention. An unnoticed trend is that the rate of suicides in Massachusetts’ 13 county jails has doubled while state prison suicides have declined.
New York State’s Commission of Correction orders a halt to inmate transfers into Rikers Island from elsewhere in the state, citing the city’s failure to correct several safety measures at the facility.
U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal denounced Harris County’s cash bail system, saying it is fundamentally unfair to detain indigent people arrested for low-level offenses simply because they can’t afford to pay bail. He ordered the county to begin releasing indigent inmates as early as May 15.
Joseph Ponte was reprimanded for repeatedly taking his New York City-owned vehicle on trips to coastal Maine in violation of city guidelines. Twenty other Correction Department employees also routinely misused their agency vehicles. Ponte’s spokesman called it “an inadvertent misunderstanding.”