BEYOND THE ISLAND: CHANGING THE CULTURE OF NEW YORK CITY JAILS.

Author:Jacobson, Michael
Position:Special Issue: The Geography of Confinement
 
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Introduction 375 I. Historical Conditions at New York City Jails 379 A. Conditions at the DOC: Historic and Continuing Challenges 380 1. A Legacy of Violence, Neglect, and Litigation 384 2. Efforts at Reform: 1970s to 2014 388 B. Nunez. The Complaint, the Consent, and the Monitor 391 1. The Complaint 391 2. The Consent Decree 392 3. The Monitor 395 a. Accountability: Reporting, Investigations, and Discipline 396 b. Workforce: Recruiting, Training, and Promotions 398 c. Young Inmate Management--Classification and Programming 400 C. Current Agenda for Reform 402 II. Organizational Culture Change 403 A. Changing the Culture at the DOC 403 1. Understanding Organizational Culture 404 2. How Organizational Culture Develops and Sustains 405 3. Specific Culture Issues in Correctional Organizations 406 4. Impacts of Conflict Between Treatment and Custody 407 5. How Organizations Can Change 409 a. Culture Change in Correctional Systems 411 b. Case Study: Virginia Department of Corrections and a Healing Environment 414 B. Developing a Culture Change Plan at the New York City Department of Correction 415 1. Accountability in Management and Performance 416 a. Effective Management as Primary Driver of Accountability 416 b. Strong Performance Measurement Facilitates Greater Accountability 418 c. Integrity of Data 420 d. Using Data as an Evidence Base for Management Decisions 420 2. Policies and Procedures 421 a. Clarifying and Bringing Directives Up to Date 422 b. Using an Evidence Base in Setting Policies and Procedures 422 3. Recruiting and Hiring for Culture Change 424 a. A Historically Fraught System 425 b. Strategic Hiring for Culture Change 426 4. Training and Education as Tools for Culture Change 427 a. Training for a Healing Environment 427 b. A Healing Environment Will Make Punitive Tools Obsolete 429 c. Redefining Staff Roles Through Professionalization 430 5. Wellbeing and Support for Staff 431 Conclusion 434 INTRODUCTION

The city and its department of correction now stand at a historic crossroads. New York City's jail system, largely symbolized by the persistently violent and inhumane conditions in the massive jail complex on Rikers Island, is an ongoing source of public shame. (1) But after years of crime and incarceration reduction, (2) closing the jail facilities on Rikers Island and reimagining the New York City Department of Correction ("DOC") now has become a realistic possibility.

Constant litigation and a number of accounts of violence and mistreatment of those held in the DOC's custody prompted a loud and sustained cry for reform. Perhaps no story galvanized this public call more than the story of Kalief Browder, first published in The New Yorker in October of 2014. (3) Browder was sixteen years old when he was arrested and charged with robbery, grand larceny, and assault. (4) He was held on $3000 bail and spent three years on Rikers Island waiting for his trial, unwilling to plead guilty to crimes he did not commit. (5) During that time, he experienced brutality at the hands of other inmates and staff, and spent months in solitary confinement, attempting suicide several times. (6) Browder's case, though eventually dismissed, shined a spotlight on the failures of New York City's criminal justice system, and Browder's suicide in June of 2015 furthered public outrage about both the conditions on Rikers and the excessive delays in the city's court system. (7)

The ever-present claims of abuse and poor conditions of confinement on Rikers Island prompted former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to set up the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform ("Commission"), which was to be led by former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, Jonathan Lippman. (8) The Commission began its work in April of 2016 and began exploring whether or not closing Rikers Island was possible, what new jail facilities should look like and where they should be located, how the city would pay for it, and if closing the jail was possible, what would become of it. (9)

In April of 2017, the Commission outlined an ambitious and comprehensive blueprint for reforming the city's criminal justice system. (10) The plan calls for shuttering the jails on Rikers Island and demolishing the other jails currently operated by the DOC off the island in order to develop a new smaller, safer, and effective incarceration system for New York City. (11) At the center of this plan are the Commission's recommendations for dramatically reducing the daily jail population by almost half, from its current population of approximately 9500 to 5000, and developing new a state-of-the-art borough-based system with detention facilities in each of the five boroughs. (12) According to the Commission's plan, Rikers Island would no longer have jail facilities but would be redeveloped to expand LaGuardia Airport and replace obsolete, borough-based public infrastructure with next-generation infrastructure on the island (i.e. wastewater treatment plants and power storage, composting, and waste-to-energy facilities). (13)

Under the Commission's plan, new jails would be located near courthouses and public transportation, thereby easing the operational burden on the DOC and increasing access to the jails by attorneys, service providers, and visitors. (14) Existing jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens would be replaced with new buildings, and entirely new facilities would be constructed on Staten Island and in the Bronx on city-owned land. (15) This new built environment would be based on, and incorporate, more humane design principles such as direct supervision. (16) Direct supervision is both a facility design and management approach based on the prevention of violence through relationship building and communication skills, freedom of movement for the incarcerated population, and a normalized environment for everyone--from detainees to DOC staff to visitors--spending time inside jails. (17) The Commission also called for the development of a new, dedicated DOC training academy as well as a longer, more robust training process for line officers and managers. (18) This presents an opportunity to completely reimagine the role of the DOC and its staff to align with a vision for a more legitimate criminal justice system. (19)

After publicly announcing his support for closing Rikers in late March, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released his own roadmap for closing Rikers Island in June of 2017 and formed a task force to implement the roadmap's recommendations. (20) The roadmap primarily focuses on the criminal justice reforms necessary to reduce the population to a point at which Rikers Island could, feasibly, be closed. (21) Many of these recommendations track those of the Commission. (22) The mayor's roadmap also outlined the importance of a built environment and culture change, though it was silent on where the new jails would be located. (23) When the mayor released this report, he also announced the formation of a task force to implement the policy changes outlined in the mayor's roadmap. (24) Importantly, there will be a dedicated committee developing and implementing recommendations for culture change. (25)

However, reducing the population and developing new, state-of-the-art facilities in the city's five boroughs--closer to families, attorneys, and resources such as employment and mental health services providers--are reforms that will not, on their own, solve the deeper problems that have long troubled the DOC. Although much of the current criticism of the DOC focuses on a rampant "culture of violence" that has persisted on Rikers Island, the jail complex's problems are symptoms of the violent, overly punitive, and neglected correctional system that operates throughout the DOC jails. (26) All DOC jails--not just those on Rikers Island, but also the existing facilities operated in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan--have high levels of violence, are in various states of decay, are outmoded, and are marred by inhospitable conditions for those held and staff alike. (27)

Simply closing Rikers Island and the existing borough facilities and moving to a borough-based jail system will not bring long-term reform. (28) In tandem with the criminal justice reforms outlined by the Commission and in the mayor's plan, the city must take difficult and concrete steps to address the organizational culture that exists at the DOC, regardless of geography. (29) This includes addressing the core issues of violence, mismanagement, and inefficiency that have long plagued the DOC itself. (30) Reform through piecemeal litigation or policy change--strategies that have driven past reform efforts at the DOC, while achieving some important results, have never successfully addressed many of the DOC's underlying, deep-rooted problems. (31)

Organizational culture consists of the beliefs, assumptions, and values that guide an organization's operations and affect how its members think and act. (32) Culture involves the unspoken ways that an organization solves its problems, and the assumptions and habits that members, including new members, share and adopt. (33) Culture is fundamental to an organization's operations, although it is often mistakenly overlooked or else not prioritized in efforts to change an organization. This Article will explore this concept of culture change through the lens of historical reform efforts, in order to firmly establish the importance of addressing culture and corresponding operational challenges as the city contemplates closing the Rikers Island jail facilities.

This Article proceeds as follows. Part I provides an overview of the history of violence of New York City jails, past efforts for reform, and current recommendations for reform. Part II presents the idea of comprehensive reform through cultural change, both outlining its tenants and detailing how it can be applied within the DOC to achieve...

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