ALBANY – State Senators, including a representative of Chautauqua County, are raising questions about the rise in violence towards corrections officers in New York State.
During a meeting of the NY Senate Finance Committee, Senator George Borrello questioned NYS Department of Corrections & Community Supervision Acting Commissioner (DOCCS) on the subject.
“In 2017 assaults on staff were 799. In 2021 that number jumped to 1173, that’s a 47 percent increase,” says Borrello.
The Senator furthered that since the prison population has declined, this rise of violence has almost doubled. Additionally, the assaults on inmates have gone up too.
Anthony Annucci, who is up for a promotion to head the state correction’s department, defended his actions and leadership skills.
“First of all, one of the ways to address violence is to increase the technology which we’ve spent millions on continuing to expand,” explains Annucci. “When you invest millions into a fixed camera system, it has a positive effect. We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the number of assaults at Attica Correctional Facility, which we completed their fixed camera system many years ago.”
The Acting Commissioner also explained how his relationships with outside law enforcement have helped expand the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) unit to probe into events that will help keep prison staff safe.
He adds that 73 percent, a growing statistic, of the prison population are violent felony offenders, people already predisposed to violence.
Another factor in the rising violence was the pandemic, as Annucci explained.
“When Covid happened, it knocked everything sideways in this agency. It really did,” says Annucci. “I mean when you can’t have the normal outreach, the normal productive engagement and activities for the population, it creates frustration. All my volunteers have not been able to come into this system, they do a great job supplementing everything we do.”
Lack of proper visitation time and rules have also created frustration amongst the population, giving little incentive to be on “good behavior.”
Annuncci, however, believes one of the best ways to create a safer system is by listening to the corrections officers and other staff that deal with the issue daily.