Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi Remarks (as Prepared for Delivery)
Board of Correction Meeting
October 19, 2021


Thank you. Can you hear me?

Chair Jones Austin it’s a bitter-sweet moment. Sweet because I’m sure you’re going to go on and do wonderful things. It's bitter because you’ve led this Board of Correction incredibly well and I’m going to miss being able to partner with you. I feel like we just started… best wishes for wherever your talents take you next. So it’s been I’ve known you before this but I’ve gotten to know you better during your time here and I’m continuously impressed by the work you do and I know we will miss you and the board will miss you I’m sure.

I also want to acknowledge the passing of, as you mentioned, several people incarcerated here and several staff members. Just a very very brief, I’m not going to talk long but I’ll give up a bit of my time for a brief moment of silence.

On this somber note, we have a lot of work to do as a department. I also want to say that um, there has been considerable work done and progress made since the last board meeting that was on September 14th. The day before we began a series of meetings with the Mayor. About half of this month since the last meeting we met every single day with the Mayor including weekends and put together a whole draft of reforms to help us improve safety, reduce triples, reduce unmanned posts, so we can get about the business of reforming the department. Those have generally been quite successful but as you mentioned, the hole is so deep, that we not popping the champagne folks, we’re not spiking the ball in the in-zone. So we did begin incentivizing staff to come to work, and for people who work triples, we incentivize people who went from one post to another. We began providing, just sort-of food for people who are working doubles and triples, car rides home, all sorts of things to improve morale. Push to reduce the population, as you mentioned. It's been down by 500 people since back then. About 6,000 people in custody then it's about 5500 people in custody now. Um, and the efforts we’ve made to incentivize staff to come to work and to work overtime and to get people to move posts, to discipline people, uh for AWOLing are now given 30-day suspensions for AWOLing to make sure people really are sick when they call in sick have all begun to reap benefits so, the number of people out sick, the number of people out for personal emergencies, the number of people who are AWOL, are all down considerably since the last meeting. That in turn has reduced the number of triples and the number of unstaffed posts. Both of them are really terrible things to have. If somebody would have told me that 4 1/2 months into my job I would be bragging to the Board of Corrections that we have fewer unstaffed posts and fewer triples as though that’s some sort of achievement, I would have told them they were crazy. But that’s where we are and that’s our job right now to do. Our hope is that it continues and that we soon have no unstaffed posts and no triples so we can get about the business of actually engaging in the types of reforms that I spent my first 4 months doing by providing robust programs and robust incentives to people. So that we’re running a better place. A more decent and humane jail. That being said, we continue to push forward our efforts. Those are not the inconsiderable wins that you can sort of see tangibly walking around. I hear staff talking about how there are more people here to work. I see people I haven’t seen before, I don’t recognize the people who check me in when I drive onto the island, which means there are people working there who weren’t working there for the first 4 months. I also see it in the numbers too. It’s somewhat crazy that we’ve almost gotten used to doubles and triples as much as we have and I think that as we recede from that, we’re gonna reap some pretty serious benefits in the quality of work our staff is doing and our ability to produce people to court on-time, and to medical appearances on-time, and to their meetings with their defense attorneys on-time, and to recreation, and religious services. All those things that will sort-of improve their quality of life and reduce the very high rates of tension in the facilities. We will be able to do all of those things better. I long for that day when we can get into the planning and thinking that I know we all want to do.

That said we have advanced the ball about what we talked to you about last month. Young adult programming, we put that out for preferred posts … And we got more than enough people to volunteer to work with young adults which is no mean feat because, you guys know, the violence rates are much higher in the young adult unit. We’re preparing them right now, they’re literally in training now. We designed it with those line staff, many of those line staff and with the young people. We’ve got the young adult task force, several BOC members are on it but also community members, advocates, unions, helping us think it through as we do it. And we’re intending to launch on November 1st. Units have been physically rehabilitated. We ordered cool new furniture that will be way different than the furniture that was there before and the young people got to vote on what furniture they wanted. A little DOC-ocracy. We’re hoping that this is the kind of buy-in and good design and program-rich environment that will one day characterize this entire jail. But ya know, every journey starts with a first step and we’re taking that first step on November 1st. I look forward to walking through that unit and having each and every one of you sit down with those young people before our next one of these meetings. So I think I’m gonna sorta stop there. I know there will be a million questions. I didn’t write a whole long speech, I just wanted to get into the meat of the meeting. I’m certainly gonna be here if you guys have any questions for me and my team is here as well.

Thank you.