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Nearly 100 groups urge New York Mayor to Create Public Misconduct Database for Corrections Officers

August 26, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Re:   Publication of DOC Corrections Officer Misconduct Records Following Section 50-a Repeal         

Dear Mayor de Blasio,

As civil and human rights organizations, community-based groups, public defenders and others across the state, we celebrated the repeal of New York Civil Rights Law Section 50-a. This repeal was a critical step in lifting the veil of secrecy surrounding the institutionalized violence against Black, brown, and other marginalized people by the criminal legal system. It brings New York in line with the 48 other states that do not keep such records secret. It will also provide incarcerated people and their advocates and allies basic access to a fundamental tool to seek redress for injustices perpetrated against them and provide the community with a tool for change. This is why we welcomed the recent announcement that your administration would make disciplinary records and allegations of misconduct for corrections officers employed by New York City’s Department of Correction (“DOC”) publicly available online.

We urge you to make good on this commitment to transparency by immediately directing DOC to create and maintain a database of correctional officer misconduct and disciplinary records online, freely available to the public, by September 15, 2020. This database must include all “law enforcement disciplinary records” as defined by the amended Public Officer’s Law as well as information about lawsuits relating to DOC staff misconduct within city jails and must be updated every month with all qualifying documents.

The overwhelming vote to repeal 50-a, which occurred in the wake of the protests of George Floyd’s murder, is a public mandate to bring to light not only the misconduct and disciplinary histories of the police, but also of DOC officers who carry out similar patterns of institutionalized violence. The impunity for this culture of unjust violence in New York City jails rests on secrecy. Accountability starts with public access to the information about the injustices perpetrated in DOC facilities.

Brutality against incarcerated people at the hands of DOC officers has been rampant for many years. As you are aware, DOC is subject to a consent judgment in the case Nunez v. City of New York, requiring DOC to overhaul its practices in order to reduce the unconstitutional levels of violence in city jails. The Ninth Report of the Independent Monitor in that case found that, as of May 2020, DOC has continuously failed to comply with core requirements of the Consent Judgment. After five years, DOC has still not implemented effective systems for investigating violent misconduct by staff, supervising staff to prevent such misconduct, or imposing appropriate discipline.

These failures noted by the report mean that DOC is plagued by an “entrench[ed]” culture of “hyper-confrontational” and “aggressive” conduct, in which “multiple levels of uniform leadership” allow violent misconduct to “flourish, unchecked.” In spite of the judgment, the “frequency of unnecessary and excessive force has not shown a marked decrease” in half a decade. Simply put, DOC has failed to hold itself accountable. Change at DOC requires public scrutiny.

The repeal of 50-a was necessary but not sufficient to hold law enforcement accountable. To ensure misconduct records do not continue to be shielded by the denials and delays that plague Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, it is critical that you affirmatively publish disciplinary records and allegations of misconduct of DOC officers.

Signed,

  1. Amnesty International USA
  2. Anti Torture Initiative Project
  3. Appellate Advocates
  4. Asociación de Mujeres Progresistas Inc.
  5. Black and Pink NYC
  6. Black Lives Matter (BLM) Hudson Valley
  7. Bronx Climate Justice North
  8. The Bronx Defenders
  9. Brooklyn Defender Services
  10. Buffalo Mutual Aid Network
  11. Call BlackLine
  12. Center for Community Alternatives
  13. Center for Law and Justice
  14. Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at New York University School of Law
  15. Citizen Action of New York
  16. Citizen Action WNY
  17. Close Rosie's
  18. Color Of Change
  19. Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
  20. Congregation Beth Elohim Dismantling Racism Team
  21. Correctional Association
  22. Emergency Release Fund
  23. Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, Inc.
  24. Exodus Transitional Community
  25. Housing Works
  26. Human Rights Watch
  27. Humanists of Long Island
  28. The Gathering for Justice
  29. Immigrant Defense Project
  30. Incarcerated Nation Network,inc
  31. Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club
  32. John Brown Lives!
  33. John Jay College Institute for Justice and Opportunity
  34. Judson Memorial Church
  35. Justice for Families
  36. Justice League NYC
  37. LatinoJustice PRLDEF
  38. The Legal Aid Society
  39. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
  40. #LetMyPeopleGoNow! Campaign
  41. LIFE Progressive Services Group Inc
  42. Long Island Council of Churches, Public Issues Committee
  43. Long Island Progressive Coalition
  44. Make the Road NY
  45. Manhasset Quaker Monthly Meeting
  46. The MAN Program
  47. Monroe County Public Defender’s Office
  48. Muslim Peace Fellowship
  49. National Action Network - Nassau County Chapter
  50. National Action Network - NYC Chapter Second Chance Committee
  51. National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) - Huntington
  52. National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) - NYS Criminal Justice
  53. Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem
  54. New Hour for Women and Children - LI
  55. New York City Jericho Movement
  56. New York Civil Liberties Union
  57. New York Immigration Coalition
  58. New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  59. North Bronx Racial Justice
  60. NYCAIC #HALTsolitary Campaign
  61. Parole Preparation Project
  62. Partnership for the Public Good
  63. Presbytery of New York City
  64. Prison Action Network
  65. Prison Families Anonymous
  66. Prison Writes
  67. Public Interest Resource Center, Fordham Law School
  68. Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign
  69. The Riverside Church
  70. Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association (RENA)
  71. ROC/ACTS
  72. Rockland Prison Justice Project
  73. Rural and Migrant Ministry
  74. Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ NYC)
  75. Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood Office of Peace and Justice
  76. Solitary Watch
  77. Students for a Sensible Drug Policy - Buffalo
  78. Transforming LIves
  79. Turning Points Resource Center
  80. United Voices of Cortland
  81. Uptown Progressive Action
  82. Urban Justice Center
  83. Vera House, Inc.
  84. VOCAL-NY
  85. Wayne Action for Racial Equality
  86. WESPAC Foundation
  87. Westchester for Change
  88. Western New York Campaign Against Isolated Confinement
  89. Western New York Law Center
  90. Women & Justice Project
  91. Worth Rises
  92. Youth Represent

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