FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 11, 2021
@CorrectionNYC NYC DOC TV
COMMISSIONER BRANN TO LEAVE THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION FOLLOWING A NEAR 40-YEAR CAREER IN PUBLIC SERVICE
East Elmhurst, NY – May 11, 2021 – The Department of Correction today announced that Commissioner Cynthia Brann will step down at the end of the month, culminating a near 40-year career in public service. Under Brann’s tenure, New York City has emerged as a leader in ending mass incarceration, with notable achievements including the Department’s groundbreaking plan to close Rikers Island and efforts to end the practice of solitary confinement.
“Under the leadership of Commissioner Brann, New York City has become a leader in ending mass incarceration,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “From our groundbreaking plan to close Rikers Island to ending solitary confinement, I am grateful for her efforts to create a jail system that is more humane for people in custody.”
“During my time as Commissioner, I have seen the men and women of this department rise to extraordinary challenges time and again,” said Commissioner Cynthia Brann. “They are more committed to keeping our jails safe than the world will ever know, and my heartfelt thanks go out to Mayor de Blasio for giving me the opportunity to work with them. I leave the Department with absolute confidence that, as we emerge from the pandemic, the fundamental changes we have put in place will ensure that we are well on our way to becoming a humane model for other jails to follow."
Commissioner Brann has enacted groundbreaking reforms to create a more humane environment for people in custody since her appointment in 2017. This includes enhanced programming for people in custody, moving adolescents off Rikers, improved training and accountability measures for staff, and comprehensive reporting of use of force incidents. Under the Commissioner’s leadership, the Department has achieved a number of historic ‘firsts’ as well – including providing free phone calls for people in custody, the launch of an online bail system, and full compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in three of its jails.
The Department’s COVID-19 response has also been held up as a model for the rest of the country. At the peak of the virus last spring, DOC helped facilitate the release of 1,600 detainees, resulting in the lowest jail population since 1946. Additionally, due to extensive safety and health measures – including extensive testing and safe housing and health screenings for people in custody – the positivity rate within jail facilities has remained consistently below that of the city.
Commissioner Brann will stay until the end of the month. Her successor will be announced in the coming weeks.
“Commissioner Brann has guided the Department of Correction on essential steps towards a city that is free from the stain of Rikers Island. While seeking reform in one of the most difficult jobs in the world, Commissioner Brann’s steadfast support for a smaller, rebuilt borough jail system has been critical to the goal of closing Rikers. I am hopeful that the next Commissioner will build on the foundation she has laid for a better future, off Rikers, for those who work and are incarcerated in our city’s jails. Commissioner Brann has my gratitude for her hard work and my best wishes in her next endeavor,” said Hon. Jonathan Lippman, former New York State Chief Judge, Chair of the Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice & Incarceration Reform, and of counsel at Latham & Watkins.
“Throughout the time I have known Commissioner Brann I have appreciated her willingness to think creatively about what it means to create a carceral system that is fundamentally humane and fair. I thank her for her service,” said Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President of the Fortune Society.
"Commissioner Brann has guided the Department through significant management challenges, a dramatic public health crisis in the form of COVID-19 and moving the agency towards Mayor de Blasio’s vision of closing Rikers Island. She has overseen a dramatic decline in the number of people incarcerated, hugely reduced the amount of solitary confinement and has moved adolescent detainees off Rikers Island into smaller community-based facilities. All those are very significant and worthwhile accomplishments in one of the most complex agencies in New York City government. She has served the city well and I wish her the best of luck," said Former Department of Correction Commissioner Michael P. Jacobson.
"Cynthia will be greatly missed across the United States. She quickly emerged as an innovative leader in corrections and had a major impact in NYC and across the US in the field of Corrections," said Kevin Kempf, Executive Director for the Correctional Leaders Association.
The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) is dedicated to creating a safe and supportive environment while providing individuals in our care with a path to successfully re-enter their communities. The Department provides for the care and custody of people ordered held by the courts and awaiting trial or who are convicted and sentenced to one year or less of jail time. DOC manages 10 facilities housing people in custody, 8 of which are located on Rikers Island. The Department also operates two hospital wards (Bellevue and Elmhurst hospitals) and court facilities in each borough. Our dedicated workforce of both uniformed and non-uniformed staff members represents the city’s BOLDEST.