Security at New York City’s infamously expensive and violent Rikers Island jail is getting a much-needed upgrade after an embarrassing undercover investigation.
DOI investigators spent hundreds of hours reviewing security videos, conducting site visits, and performing
undercover integrity tests. As part of those integrity tests, a DOI undercover investigator posing as a Correction Officer smuggled in a razor blade and large quantities of heroin, marijuana, and prescription narcotics at six facilities on Rikers Island. Specifically, the DOI undercover investigator carried in on his person:
one plastic bag containing 250 glassine envelopes of heroin,
one plastic bag containing 24 packaged strips of suboxone, which is a prescription opiate substitute similar to methadone,
two plastic bags containing a total weight of one-half-pound of marijuana,
one 16-ounce water bottle containing vodka, and
one razor blade.
The undercover investigator successfully smuggled the contraband — carrying the marijuana and narcotics in his cargo pants pockets and the alcohol in a water bottle in his hand — through staff entrance security checkpoints at the Anna M. Kross Center, Otis Bantum Correctional Center, George Motchan Detention Center, George R. Vierno Center, Eric M. Taylor Center, and the Robert N. Davoren Center. The contraband was immediately secured by DOI at the conclusion of these operations.
DOI estimates, based on intelligence it has gathered, that a DOC employee could make approximately $US3,600 in courier fees for the amount of contraband smuggled during each operation; and that the resale value inside of Rikers of the contraband in each instance totaled more than $US22,000.
These integrity tests also exposed inconsistent security procedures, for example, magnetometers that detect metal contraband on an individual that were set at different levels at different facilities, so the undercover investigator set off an alarm in one facility, but not another; security personnel that allowed the undercover investigator to walk into the facility after triggering the magnetometer, and without emptying his pockets; and the failure to follow current protocols, for example, improperly using a transfrisker wand to examine only the investigator’s belt after the investigator said his belt triggered the magnetometer alarm.
Now it’s understandable why the jail had such a problem with drug trafficking by prisoners and guards.
As a result of the investigation, Rikers is making some changes:
[T]he City Department of Correction (“DOC”) has agreed to significantly enhance its security procedures, including the implementation for the first time of drug-sniffing dogs at staff entrances, the assignment of the Special Operations Division (“SOD”) to oversee security at staff entrances, and the consideration of upgrading DOC search protocols to the standards employed by the federal Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”).
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