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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Is Rikers Island Doing Purges?

Word is that Rikers Island Correctional Institute is doing big things in the wrong way! Knife fights and ugly brawls between inmates, even attacks on officers, often end up airbrushed in the records as routine “log book entries.” The main culprit, critics say, is Security Chief Turhan Gumusdere, a man who has faced scandal in the past for distorting data in the jails by deleting hundreds of fights among inmates from the records when he was a deputy warden.

They also have questions, they say, about Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte, a touted reformer who nonetheless promoted Gumusdere into his job, even after the jail investigator recommended he be demoted. While vowing to alter the culture of violence, Ponte has done nothing to address flaws in the record-keeping process, either exerting pressure or looking the other way, all to placate City Hall.

Now the City Council, citing computations that don’t add up, is demanding answers, starting with Elizabeth Crowley, who heads the committee overseeing the jails. She is calling on city Controller Scott Stringer to run an audit of the records.

This is not the first time jail brass, particularly Gumusdere, have come under fire for juking figures. The Correction Department's internal Investigation Division found in 2011 that Gumusdere, while running a Rikers facility for troubled teens, “abdicated all responsibility” in documenting incidents. A department investigator recommended he be demoted.

In reviewing 11 specific cases, The News found nine downgrades. But according to several jails bosses, this number represents just a fraction of the cases that are skewed. Incidents are often not logged at all, with Gumusdere telling supervisors to “make it go away.”

Correction officers labeled the incidents as “slashings” only to see them later downgraded. That catch-all category, a holdover from precomputer times, is not included in data on violence.

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