New DOC policy bars COs from using slang terms for inmates
New edict is aimed at creating a “culture of mutual respect” in NYC’s jails
Stephen Rex Brown and John Annese
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — City correction officers are no longer allowed to refer to inmates as “packages,” “bodies” or other terms of slang, according to a new edict aimed at creating a “culture of mutual respect” in the city’s jails.
The rule change comes as the City Council mulls a new inmate bill of rights that would require DOC workers and officers call inmates by their names and preferred pronouns.
In an order sent out Tuesday, DOC Chief of Department Hazel Jennings said jail staff are expected to “refrain from colloquial terminology when referring to persons in our custody.”
“When making radio transmissions, conversing on the telephone or speaking to others when on duty as it pertains to incarcerated individuals in our custody, it is prohibited to refer to persons in out custody using terms such as ... packages, bodies, etc.”
Instead, Jennings ordered, inmates must be referred to as “persons” or “individuals” by correction officers when discussing moving them from one part of a jail facility to another.
“This notification reinforces existing policy and advances our goal of creating a culture of mutual respect. It is part of our ongoing commitment to remaking our jails into national models for modern correctional practice,” DOC spokesman Peter Thorne said.
City Councilman Keith Powers — who earlier this month sponsored an inmate bill of rights in advance of an Oct. 17 Council vote to shutter Rikers and open smaller jails in all of the boroughs except Staten Island — praised the rule change Thursday.
“This is a small but encouraging step to humanize individuals in custody," he said. "The policy reflects legislation I introduced this month that would require incarcerated individuals be called by their names -- we are talking about people here.”
The new rule doesn’t sit well with some correction officers. One told the Daily News that calling inmates “packages” or “bodies” “is not dehumanizing. It’s just radio etiquette.”
Elias Husamudeen, the head of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association , calls the new order “redundant,” since officers already address officers by their names.
"What’s concerning to us is this apparent emphasis from the City Council on increasing congeniality, rather than addressing the jail violence which even the administration reports has risen significantly over the past year,” Husamudeen said.
Prisoner advocates welcome the new policy.
“This has been a long time coming, and we thank the New York City Council for demanding action on this critical issue,” said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “Now we call on the New York City Police Department and officers of the court to do the exact same.”