It's no secret workers on Rikers Island have a dangerous job dealing with inmates, but now, some of those workers worry they could also be at risk on the outside, targeted for violence by accomplices of those who are doing time. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Some people who work on Rikers Island say these are tense times in the lockup over what many are calling a hit list. Sources say it lists names of correction officers and staffers gang members are supposedly targeting.
In an exclusive interview with NY1, the head of the Gang Intelligence Unit on Rikers says correction officers have yet to determine what this really is.
"We haven't be able to establish that the information is a hit list." said Brian Sullivan, a deputy warden with the Department of Correction. "What has been widely publicized is a photograph of, actually, somebody's notes who was participating in an investigation regarding that."
Sources who work on Rikers say those on the supposed list have been given extra security.
All of this comes after four people who work with inmates with mental illness were attacked last month. One clinical intern was punched in the face so severely, her jaw was broken. It was caught on surveillance video.
The correction department says it trains non-uniformed workers on safety tactics at least twice a year, and reminds them that although people are being treated for mental illness, they are still inmates.
Sullivan: But this patient of theirs that they're obviously attending to has some very serious security concerns that they must be mindful of, absolutely, all the time.
Meminger: And are the officers mindful of it, keeping a watch on it?
Sullivan: Well, absolutely.
The department says 38 percent of the inmate population has been diagnosed with mental illness, compared to 24 percent just seven years ago.
Another big concern is that the number of gang members seems to be on the rise. DOC counts 2,068 inmates as being affiliated with a gang. More officers have been added to the gang intelligence unit to address the issue.
"We are much better now at intervening much sooner when violence erupts," Sullivan said. "Staff are encouraged to use their chemical agents spray much quicker to prevent violence from escalating. Also, we're better at reporting those incidents."
They hope that no more serious incidents happen in the near future.