Prisoners at Rikers Island are still shackled and handcuffed to metal restraint desks while in classrooms at the facility even though the New York Commissioner of Corrections promised to remove them last year.
Reform Commissioner Luis Molina told the city board at a meeting last week that the offices are “a critical tool in managing challenging residents vulnerable to serious violence.”
His comments were the opposite of when he told WNYC in July, “We’re removing the restrictive offices that were part of our restrictive housing system.”
Prisoners at Rikers Island are still chained and shackled to metal restraint desks while in classrooms despite the Corrections Commissioner’s promise to remove them last year.
Specially designed metal desks are used to restrain “inmates who may cause a disturbance during therapeutic, educational, program and/or recreational sessions in the classroom environment”
In July, the Department of Corrections was preparing to start a program called the Risk Management Accountability System, which would serve as an alternative to solitary confinement that would allow detainees more time outside the cell.
But then Molina announced he was going with a different model called Enhanced Supervision Housing — which allowed offices of restraint.
There are two versions of restraint offices. One with a single seat and the other with two seats facing the detainees.
The inmates’ legs are chained through a steel bar in the office that is nailed to the floor. One arm is secured with handcuffs and a chain, which is attached through a ring welded to the desk.
According to the DOC, specially designed metal desks are used to restrain “inmates who may cause a disturbance during therapeutic, educational, programming, and/or recreational sessions in the classroom environment.”
DailyMail.com has reached out to the DOC for comment.
Reform Commissioner Luis Molina acknowledged that the offices continued to be used for the purpose of securing, as he put it, “individuals with a significant propensity for violence.”
Molina told the Reform City Council at a meeting last week that the desks are “a critical tool in managing challenging residents exposed to serious violence.”
Molina explained that the offices were a way to provide greater security for violent detainees. But he indicated that he initially wanted to use “gloves” that cover the hands and are intended to prevent cuts and stab wounds.
However, he said, he was advised by federal superintendent Steve Martin, the court-appointed superintendent of prisons, and Corrections Department consultant James Austin to use the offices of restraint.
“Our expert and the observer had reservations about using restrictive gloves when exiting the cell,” Molina said. So the alternative we had was the office of restraint. When we presented that to the Federal Controller, that’s what was approved.
At last week’s meeting, Molina acknowledged that the offices continued to be used for the purpose of securing, as he put it, “individuals who are highly inclined to violence.”
The desk allows for consistent program delivery and socialization with peers [while] Molina said.
He was challenged by Board of Correction member Bobby Cohen, also a physician, who noted Molina recently testified that stabbings and slashings were down systemwide by 14.4 percent in the past nine months.
Now you’re telling us the violence has gone down, and yet a month ago, you put the straitjackets back. why did you do it?’ Cohen asked. “The council has spent a great deal of time trying to wrap up this arduous process.”
Department of Correction counselor James Austin told the Daily News that violence has decreased “significantly” in the enhanced supervision housing units, where offices are used.
Austin then asserted that when a detainee was proven not to be a danger, only then was he transferred to another unit where restraint desks were not used.
Austin added, “Commissioner Molina is right – this is a much better technique than restraint/gloves because it allows the person to actively participate in rehabilitation programs in a more natural way.”
At the meeting last week, Cohen also argued that the offices were medically dangerous and that the board had not been consulted about the change.
“Restraint offices are not a sound medical option,” he said. “They’re medically dangerous.” They are tormented. They are insulting and I hope you get them down ASAP.
Molina replied, “The problem, Dr. Cohen, is that death is also very dangerous. We cannot allow anyone to kill another person.”
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