New York: New York City jail officials plan tighter screening of guards and other employees after a city investigation found that vodka, heroin, marijuana and razor blades could be smuggled into Rikers Island in exchange for hundreds of dollars in "courier" fees from inmates.
A report today from the city's Department of Investigation revealed guards were routinely allowed to put lunches on top of X-ray machines, rather than through them, and were regularly waved through security after setting off metal detectors.
The report found one undercover investigator posing as a guard was able to smuggle in more than USD 22,000 worth of contraband including booze, drugs and a razor blade in six separate attempts at six different Rikers jails.
"Clearly our investigation indicates that this is a real problem," said DOI Commissioner Mark Peters.
The report comes after a series of investigations by the anti-corruption agency which this year alone resulted in charges against 10 jail guards, 30 inmate arrests and multiple jail sweeps.
Guards were accused of smuggling contraband into lockups to inmates for courier fees that averaged about USD 600. In one case from last year, a guard got USD 2,000 for smuggling in 150 grams of marijuana.
One jail nurse told investigators he sneaked clear alcohol such as vodka in Poland Spring water bottles while darker liquor could be put into Snapple iced tea bottles, neither of which would be checked by guards.
The increased scrutiny of Rikers, the huge jail complex on an island in the East River, also revealed the deaths of two mentally ill inmates one who was left unattended in a 101-degree cell and another who sexually mutilated himself while locked up alone for seven days.
Peters and Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte said some of the recommended reforms already are being implemented, such as mandating that supervisors oversee searches at shift changes and requiring that food go through the X-ray machines in clear containers.
Other recommendations in the report included putting drug-sniffing dogs at porous security checkpoints, turning over screening to specially trained security staff and eliminating extraneous pockets from uniform pants.
But training security staff, hiring more canine units and implementing search protocols up to Transportation Security Administration standards could take up to six months to fully implement, Peters said.