Essay Example on New York City Department of Corrections Commissioner

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The New York City Department of Corrections (NYCDOC) is tasked with the mandate of rehabilitating inmates who are serving a sentence of one year or less, holding suspects awaiting trial and they also take care of these inmates. The NYCDOC is currently managing twelve facilities with such an aim. It was established in 1895 after the Department of Public Charities and Corrections was split. The NYCDOC was put in charge of all penal institutions including the citys workhouse and penitentiary. Its main operating base was at Blackwells Island (now Roosevelt Island) until the 1930s when it was moved to Rikers Island (NYC Correction, 2016).

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The department is headed by a commissioner, Joseph Ponte, who is assisted by a first deputy commissioner, Dina Simon. The two are assisted by deputy commissioners in charge of: operations, financial, facility and fleet administration, general counsel, public information, office of classification and population management, youthful offender and young adult programming, adult programming and community partnerships, quality assurance and integrity, information technology, investigation division, health affairs and human resources. The chief of staff, chief of department, bureau chiefs and assistant chiefs are other leaders who help in running the department of corrections in New York City (NYC Correction, 2016).

For its success in rehabilitation the NYCDOC has several divisions that ensure its smooth administration. These include: Recruitment Unit, Applicant Investigation Unit (AIU), Correction Academy, Canine Unit (K9), Fire Safety Unit (FSU), Emergency Service Unit (ESU), Firearms and Tactics Unit (FTU), Communications Unit, Correction Assistance Response for Employees (CARE), Transportation Division, Ceremonial Unit and Facility Maintenance and Repair Division. All these units have regular meeting to ensure that there is proper administration of the corrections department through the Total Efficiency Accountability Management Systems (TEAMs) policy (NYC Corrections, 2016).

Commissioner Joseph Ponte is in charge of the NYC DOC. Ponte is from Massachusetts in Boston. He has had a successful forty year career in the corrections department. He holds a degree in political science from Bridge Water College and is a veteran of the Marine Corps, having served in the 1960s. He has worked in different capacities in the corrections systems starting from a corrections officer, director and now commissioner. He has worked in several prisons and jails throughout the United States of America: Nevada, Florida, Tennessee, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

He was appointed as the Commissioner of the NYC DOC in April 2014. Before this he was a commissioner in the Maine DOC where he successfully changed the violent nature of the prisons there. He also enabled the prisons to be accredited by the American Correction Association (ACA). Before serving as a commissioner, he was a director in the Shelby County Jail in Tennessee. Ponte has generally had a great impact in the corrections systems as the jails and prisons he has worked with have seen a great period of success and change.

Since its establishment in the 1903, Rikers has been faced with several challenges due to its location and expansion from a small island to a landfill island. Some of the major problems it has experienced and is still experiencing are: environmental degradation due to the materials used to landfill it, sexual abuse of the inmates and staff by fellow inmates and correction officers, illegal smuggling of drugs and weapons into the facility by civilians and staff both uniformed and civilian and violence.

This situation is worsened by the fact that almost forty percent of the inmates have been diagnosed to be mentally ill. Despite this, majority of them (inmates) are waiting to stand trial in the later years or a serving their time for short sentences due to low level offences. The inmates are also majorly African American or Latin, which makes about ninety percent of the total population. The facility also houses inmates aged sixteen to twenty one who are considered juveniles (Schwartz and Winerip, 2015).

Despite all these, the major problem facing Rikers is the violence seen within the facility. This ranges from inmate-inmate violence to inmate-correction officer violence. The causes of the violence is mainly due to drugs and weapons that find their way into the institution through fraudulent ways. The presence of rival gang members housed in the same facility escalates the situation to worse levels. Conflicts between the inmates and the corrections officers also results to violence. This is because the corrections officers use any amount of force to protect themselves and their colleagues from any form of harm from the inmates. The inmates also do the same when they feel that they are being abused by the officers (Schwartz and Winerip, 2015).

Since his employment as the commissioner of the NYC DOC, Joseph Ponte has put in place reforms to help change the situation of violence in Rikers. Most of these are similar strategies he used in the Maine and Tennessee prisons called Hug a Thug policies (Mackie, 2014). These reforms helped in the total cooperation of inmates with their correction officers and led to the general improvement of the hygienic conditions and inmate attitude in the prisons in Tennessee and Maine. Ponte believes that these strategies if implemented at Rikers would result to a change in the tainted view of the Rikers correctional facility.

These reforms include implementing an anti-violence agenda aimed at protecting both the inmates and corrections officers.Developing safe housing for even the most dangerous of criminals, finding constructive alternatives of handling inmates such as use of reduced force in case of any violent activities, improving violentdeceleration and crisis management strategies, increasing surveillance of the prisons by installing more cameras around the facility and providing body cameras for officers.

Offering extra training on how to calm down tense situations and on how to handle the mentally ill inmates and the youth population, mainly below the age of twenty one, increasing the number of graduating recruited officers to help reduce on pressure and overtime hours on the current workforce at the institution. The periods spent in solitary confinement are also reduced significantly unless under review of the case or situation that requires longer periods of segregation and offering education classes on issues such as anger management and computer programming. The hours for these classes are also increased significantly in order to prevent idleness of the inmates, something that greatly contributes to the violence in the ten jails (Ponte, 2015).

Despite his efforts to bring changes to the NYC DOC, Ponte has been met with opposing forces. The same people who were keen on changing the state of affairs in the corrections department now are questioning his strategies. He however has no plans of backing out on his mission. His aim is to make the Rikers facility one of the best facilities in the United States. It being the second largest corrections facility in the country.

His strategic approach to the problems at Rikers just shows how committed he is to changing the situation there. Such strategic leadership is what is really required for reforms to be made. His way of handling the inmates at Rikers is different from what all other commissioners of the NYC DOC have been doing (Amanchukwu,Stanley and Ololube, 2015).

Team leadership is also a great key factor to his administration skills. The solutions to the situation at Rikers does not entail only one division or unit. It requires the coordination of all units under the NYC DOC for them to be successfully implemented. His ability to manage all divisions and bringing them to fully agree with his policies shows that he is fully aware of the importance of team work(Amanchukwu,Stanley and Ololube, 2015).

Ponte has also displayed democratic leadership. He has delegated responsibilities to different divisions who report back to him. The divisions too have heads who have the authority to make decisions with regard to the responsibilities assigned to them. He is responsible for the overall outcome of his decisions and those who work under his supervision(Amanchukwu,Stanley and Ololube, 2015).

The change being initiated in the NYC DOC by Ponte shows that he is a transformational leader. He has put in place reforms that are aimed at changing the state of affairs in the department of corrections and the view of Rikers correction facility. He is also motivating those he leads by giving them hope that the changes will affect them in a positive way and they do not have to give up just because they effects are taking time to be felt. He also encourages them to embrace the new reforms(Amanchukwu,Stanley and Ololube, 2015).

Finally Ponte is a visionary leader. His vision for the NYC DOC is to be the best in the United States. This vision he has shared with both the staff he leads and the citizens of New York. His ability to see what the corrections department will be seen as in the coming future is so compelling and drives his passion to initiate the changes that will lead to the achievement of such a vision(Amanchukwu,Stanley and Ololube, 2015).

Pontes approach shows great strengths as the reforms are for the long term change of the Rikers facility that has since been under criticism due to how affairs have been run. However all strengths shown have a down side to them. Ponte might be positive about the reforms he is bringing but unless he tackles all aspects of his approach in implementing them, then it would be a great disaster as was seen fifteen years ago when such changes were tried to be implemented at the same facility.

Ever since his appointment, Ponte has received the support from the New York City mayor, De Blaiso. He has received financial support to help in setting up of the new housing units, increasing the officers recruited and implementing his educational programs. The financial support also goes to supporting his bid to rehabilitate the buildings at Rikers that have seen better days. The mayor has also asked the Department of Justice to speed up in case hearings in order to serve sentences to those awaiting trial at the facility. This would go a great way in reducing the population of the facility(Schwartz and Winerip, 2015).

The city hall has also renewed the medical contract in order to improve the medical services received by the inmates. This will ensure that the mentally ill inmates get proper treatment that will help a great way in their recovery as well as rehabilitation. Any injuries resulting from violence will also be well treated and cared for. The number of medical staff is also increased as so that the inmates with any health complications are well cared for(Schwartz and Winerip, 2015).

The greatest strength of Pontes reforms aim at changing the attitude of inmates towards the rehabilitation process. They also have a change of attitude towards the corrections officers as they are seen as vessels of helping them get better skills that will help after their time in Rikers. This helps to reduce the cases of violence and correction officer abuses (Ponte, 2015).

The relationship between officers and inmates is also improving as Ponte encourages the officers to associate with the inmates. This helps them to get to the inmates and helps to change them and in their rehabilitation process. Furthermore, the inmates also are able to open up to the correction officers and get help where they need(Ponte, 2015).

However, this approach to reforms has some negative sides attached to it. The greatest one being th...

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