In response to New Plan to Shrink Rikers Island Population: Tackle Court Delays:
My name is Patrick Cullen and I am the President of the New York State Supreme Court Officers Association. I represent over 2300 Court Officers, a majority of whom are stationed in New York City Supreme Courts. I appreciate the article you wrote in today’s edition regarding the plan to shrink Riker’s Island’s population. I did want to make a couple of comments about some of the facts. You are completely correct in stating that there are not enough Court Officers assigned to these courts. We continue to operate at tremendous staffing deficits, short by 2009 standards by 150 -200 officers. We are losing people at rates never seen before on our job to retirement and lateral moves to other civil service positions. Not only does this place us in even more danger but stunts the ability to staff courtrooms properly. This certainly slows the system down some but the onus lies on the Office of Court Administration, which fails to address serious safety concerns when raised, barely replenishes security personnel, and has ordered all courtrooms to be shuttered for the day by 4:30 PM to avoid the payment of overtime. All of these misjudgements compound to create the extremely slow pace of justice you detail in today’s piece.
Judge Lippman is portrayed as someone riding to the rescue of a damaged correctional facility, however, his policies bear some blame for the situation. His use of the Judicial Budget for the funding of his Civil Legal Services initiative has caused the cessation of all overtime, which has always been necessary for the more efficient operation of the criminal justice process. Additionally, he has parsed the system beyond recognition by creating specialty and boutique court parts. They stretch staffing even further diluting the resources necessary to ensure that the criminal justice system is administered effectively.