January 22, 2022

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Hundreds of NYC corrections officers suspended after failing to meet Tuesday Covid vaccine deadline

Hundreds of NYC corrections officers suspended after failing to meet Tuesday Covid vaccine deadline
New York City’s troubled jail system is facing more turmoil: the possible suspension of hundreds of corrections officers for failing to meet a Tuesday night deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19.The city’s Department of Correction reported 77 percent of its uniformed staff - about 6,000 people - had gotten at least one vaccine dose as…

New York City’s troubled jail system is facing more turmoil: the possible suspension of hundreds of corrections officers for failing to meet a Tuesday night deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The city’s Department of Correction reported 77 percent of its uniformed staff – about 6,000 people – had gotten at least one vaccine dose as of 5 pm Monday. That number is up by five percent from Monday of last week. 

Department of Corrections Press Secretary Patrick Gallahue told DailyMail.com that the number of vaccinated corrections officers had gone up by 31percent since Mayor Bill de Blasio announced vaccine mandates for the city’s municipal workers on October 20.  

Gallahue said that 708 jail workers who’ve applied for religious or medical exemptions can continue to work while their cases are reviewed.

‘If you show up to your next shift with your vax card – which could have been this morning, or later today, or two days from now, or whenever it is – then you’re not placed on leave without pay, obviously,’ he said.  

‘That’s why we’ve been caveat-ing this so heavily. It’s all being processed in real time, as shifts start. As more people get vaccinated, this number will drop.’ 

City Hall officials said Wednesday afternoon that 570 workers could be put on leave without pay for failing to comply with the mandate, but they would not know the precise number until those corrections officers show up for scheduled shifts and do not show proof of vaccination.

The deadline for jail workers to be vaccinated was delayed a month because of existing staffing shortages.

Today, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (pictured) said he ‘expect[ed] the number’ of vaccinated Department of Corrections officers ‘to up in a very substantial way in the days ahead.’ Currently, 77percent of them have gotten at least one jab, up from 72percent on Monday of last week

Pictured is an ‘enhanced supervision’ housing at Riker’s Island. City Hall officials said Wednesday afternoon that 570 jailers could be put on leave without pay for failing to comply with the mandate

The promised suspensions threaten to add to the problems at the city’s jails, which includes the notorious Rikers Island complex. The jails, rotted by years of neglect, have spiraled out of control during the pandemic with staggering violence, self-harm and the deaths this year of at least 14 inmates — the most since 2013

Workers who haven’t applied for an exemption and who failed to show proof of vaccination by 5 pm Tuesday were to be placed on unpaid leave and surrender any city-issued firearms and protective gear, officials said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who already imposed similar mandates for other city workers, said he expects the vaccination rate to rise as workers begin missing paychecks or their requests for an exemption are denied.

‘I expect those numbers to up in a very substantial way in the days ahead,’ de Blasio told reporters at a virtual news conference Wednesday.

In anticipation of the impending mandate, de Blasio on Monday issued an emergency executive order designed to beef up jail staffing by authorizing a switch to 12-hour shifts from the normal 8-hour tours.

The president of the union for jail guards balked at that move saying it was ‘reckless and misguided.’ The union said it would sue to block the mandate — the same tactic a police union tried in late October as the vaccine requirement for its officers neared. The police union lost and the mandate went into effect as scheduled.

Workers who haven’t applied for an exemption and who failed to show proof of vaccination by 5 pm Tuesday were to be placed on unpaid leave and surrender any city-issued firearms and protective gear, officials said. Corrections officers are pictured at Rikers Island

Pictured are corrections officers working in a housing unit on Rikers Island. Mayor de Blasio authorized jail employees to work 12-hour shifts instead of their typical 8-hour tours in anticipation of shortage due to the vaccine mandate

Benny Boscio Jr., the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, said staffing in the city’s jails is as bad or worse than it was in October, when de Blasio announced jail workers would have extra time to meet the vaccine mandate.

Fewer than 100 of a promised 600 guards have been hired, Boscio said, and none of them have started working in the jails. Resignations and retirements have piled up, and guards are continuing to work round-the-clock shifts, with no time for meals or rest, Boscio said.

Suspending jail workers over the vaccine mandate could be deadly, the union chief warned.

‘To move forward with placing what little staff we do have on leave tomorrow would be like pouring gasoline on a fire, which will have a catastrophic impact on the safety of our officers and the thousands of inmates in our custody,’ Boscio said Tuesday.

The promised suspensions threaten to add to the problems at the city’s jails, which includes the notorious Rikers Island complex. The jails, rotted by years of neglect, have spiraled out of control during the pandemic with staggering violence, self-harm and the deaths this year of at least 14 inmates — the most since 2013.

The troubles have led to growing calls to overhaul or immediately close Rikers Island, which the city has said will be shuttered by 2027. The city on Tuesday announced it had awarded contracts for work on new jails in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Pictured is the Manhattan Detention Complex. 

Last week, members of the House Oversight Committee, including New York Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, sent letters to New York City district attorneys expressing ‘grave concerns’ that excessive bail amounts were putting too many people in jail.

At the same time, staffing levels have dropped sharply during the pandemic. Uniformed personnel fell from a staff of 10,862 in 2017 to 8,388 in 2021. At one point in the summer, one-third of guards were out sick or medically unfit to work with inmates and an untold number of guards went AWOL, the city said.

The vaccine mandate for jail workers is taking effect as scientists are racing to learn more about the omicron variant, which was identified last week by researchers in South Africa. No cases have been detected in the United States, though de Blasio said he believes it’s “very likely” there will eventually be cases reported in New York City.

De Blasio announced an additional vaccine mandate Monday for child care workers, reiterating his commitment to the mandates he’s unveiled for almost the city’s entire municipal workforce in recent months.

The Department of Correction said it held town halls, called employees and gave them literature to encourage them to get vaccinated. 

It also offered a $500 bonus, parked a truck displaying a pro-vaccine message on a digital billboard at Rikers Island and recruited Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, author Piper Kerman and former New York Mets player Mookie Wilson to tape messages for the department encouraging workers to get the shots.

Gallahue said that 907 uniformed Department of Correction staff had taken advantage of the monetary incentive. 

‘We’re grateful for every officer who has stepped up for the community and gotten the shot. Vaccination rates will continue to rise, as they have with every agency in the City, and we remain confident that our staffing plan will keep our jails safe while they do,’ a Department of Corrections spokesperson told DailyMail.com.

The campaign has moved the needle, with Monday’s 77percent vaccination total among jail workers up from 72percent a week earlier and 46percent in late October when the mandate was announced. Still, at all other city agencies, at least at least 86percent of workers have received at least one vaccine dose — and most agencies were reporting vaccination rates above 90percent as of Monday.

A corrections officer is pictured watching a security post on Rikers Island. The city of New York set up a large digital billboard at Rikers Island promoting the vaccine in an attempt to get employees to comply with the mandate

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