Seventy-five newly sworn in correction officers will be marching into Rikers Island and other city jails after 48 men and 27 women graduated from the academy Tuesday. Most are from the five boroughs.
The new correction commissioner, Louis Molina, congratulated the small class of graduates.
“You represent the first graduating class of recruits in three years and the first class in a once-in-a-century pandemic,” said Molina.
Mayor Eric Adams attended the ceremony at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx. He said he has the backs of correction officers because he feels they’ve been blamed for too much of the chaos on Rikers Island when it comes to violent inmates and detainees.
“We have abandoned New Yorkers, particularly those who are Black and Brown and immigrant, and then we turned them over to you and we expect for you to work miracles when no one else did their basic job and duties,” said Adams.
Correction officers’ jobs got a lot more difficult during the pandemic. A crisis developed on Rikers with an increase in officers not showing up to work and an increase of violence among inmates — all while a deteriorating facility already plagued with problems was slated to be closed in the coming years by the de Blasio Administration.
Mayor Adams sent a message during the speech, stating that he believes COs had their hands tied by the previous mayor.
“I will be damned if I am going to ignore the reality that we put you in a difficult environment and expect for you to do your job and not come home to your families,” said Adams. “It’s unacceptable.”
It was also a signal he will work with the correction union. Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio acknowledged that while speaking to the graduates.
“I truly believe you are the first of a new era where now we have backing from City Hall and our own agency,” said Boscio.
Of the new officers, 54% of the new officers are Black, 27% Hispanic, 8% Asian, and 7% are white.
The mayor told the audience, because most of the correction officers are people of color from the same communities as the inmates, the agency has been handled as a stepchild of law enforcement.
“The department of corrections was always treated with a level of hidden racism,” said Adams.
But with vows of reforms for inmates and COs, these men and women are now among the 6,500 officers on the frontlines in turning the Rikers crisis around.
They are nervous about the violence, but ready to get to work.
“Yes, I’m anxious about it, but I feel as if Mayor Eric Adams and Commissioner Louis Molina will do a good job and making sure that we do step up the morale,” said Officer Walker. “The only thing we have to do right now is weather the storm. Better days will come.”
Nine of the graduates have family working in the correction department, so they’ve heard plenty about what to expect as they start their new careers.
“I grew up seeing my father working in corrections and I’m just really excited to start this job,” said Officer McAlvin.