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Rikers Island corrections officer suspended after jail search finds contraband cache

The suspension comes as the NYC DOC has expanded the use of body scanners in the jails to check staff for possible contraband

New York Department of Corrections

James Keivom

By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — A New York City correction officer was suspended after investigators discovered a stash of contraband hidden in a Rikers Island jail including a cell phone, phone chargers, a Wi-Fi hotspot adapter and a tool for breaking car windows, the Daily News has learned.

Officer Marc Johnson, a nine-year Correction Department veteran, was suspended Tuesday after a random search uncovered the cache of banned items concealed in a metal box in a hallway on the second floor of the North Infirmary Command, correction sources said.

The discovery was made in a section of the jail used for violent detainees and those with high-profile cases.

The box also contained three watches, a set of headphones with a microphone, a speaker, a clock and an airplane bottle of Jack Daniels honey liqueur, correction sources said. A second airplane bottle of honey whiskey was allegedly found in Johnson’s vehicle.

Correction Department spokeswoman Shayla Mulzac confirmed Wednesday that Johnson was suspended for 30 days without pay for possession of contraband. An investigation is ongoing.

“Any staff who brings contraband into our jails will face serious consequences, including possible termination and criminal charges,” said Correction Commissioner Lynelle Maginley-Liddie. “The presence of prohibited items directly impacts safety for all staff and people in custody.”

Lynelle Maginley-Liddie, the 38th commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction. Johnson made $144,328 in fiscal 2023, including $48,262 for working 694 hours of overtime, city payroll records show.

In fiscal 2022, he made $158,216, including $55,799 for 802 hours of overtime, the payroll records show.

The suspension comes as the Correction Department has expanded the use of body scanners in the jails to check staff for possible contraband.

The program began in February 2023 — following much resistance spanning several administrations — when then-Correction Commissioner Louis Molina had a body-scanning machine for staff installed in the Robert N. Davoren Center.

Since then, the department has added scanners in the Otis Bantum Correctional Center and the Eric M. Taylor Center.

Now, under Maginley-Liddie, the George R. Vierno Center is next, with the three remaining jails at Rikers — the infirmary command, the Rose M. Singer Center and the West Facility — to follow.

Contraband is a persistent problem at Rikers.

In October, the federal monitor tracking violence and staff use of force in New York City’s jails said they were “pervasive, leading to slashings and open drug use” even in the high-security Enhanced Supervision Housing unit at the Singer Center.

Weapons are “easily available” and drug use is “rampant,” the Oct. 5 report said.

From January to November 2023, 4,020 contraband items were confiscated in more than 100,000 searches compared with 8,598 items in 2022, the monitor reported Dec 22.

While contraband smuggling is often blamed on detainees, visitors and the mail, a number of officers have been caught bringing in drugs, phones, weapons and other items in recent years.

In November, former Correction Officer Krystle Burrell was sentenced to two years and five months in federal prison for taking $10,000 in bribes to smuggle in drugs and cell phones for detainee Terrae Hinds, with whom she was romantically involved.

In April, former Correction Officer Katrina Patterson was sentenced to a year in prison for taking $34,000 in bribes to smuggle drugs and cell phones into the Davoren Center.

In November 2022, Correction Department investigator Andrew Walker testified at a Brooklyn Federal Court trial that officers and staff are “usually” the source of contraband.

“They [detainees] usually use officers and civilian staff,” Walker said during the trial of James Albert, accused of bribing correction officers to smuggle contraband.

Albert was found guilty of bribing staff, including former Correction Officer Patrick Legerme. Legerme pleaded guilty to conspiring to accept bribes.

But the Correction Department reported no staff suspensions for contraband in 2022 and three in the first half of 2023, compared with 11 between January 2020 and June 2021, the Dec. 22 monitor report said.

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