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NYC Board of Correction exec calls out DOC commish for ‘destructive’ remarks

“His messaging has ... impaired some of the respect our staff get out in the jails from their DOC staff colleagues,” Amanda Masters said

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AP Photo/Matt Rourke

By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Board of Correction executive director Amanda Masters in her resignation letter called out DOC Commissioner Louis Molina for making “inaccurate” and “destructive” remarks about the 70-year-old jail watchdog agency.

Masters sent the letter disclosing her decision to step down next month to the board Monday. The letter was obtained by the Daily News via a Freedom of Information request.

“As you all know, the Commissioner of the Department of Correction has made several disparaging remarks about our agency over the course of several weeks, which were inaccurate, and this was destructive,” Masters wrote.

“His messaging has reached the DOC staff and been repeated and that has impaired some of the respect our staff get out in the jails from their DOC staff colleagues.”

Masters charged that Molina “has also acted to restrict and encumber staff access to information necessary to perform their work effectively and to discuss and illustrate their findings among themselves, with me, and with board members.”

The Department of Correction did not immediately respond to a request for comment. BOC Chair Dwayne Sampson and the board did not immediately respond to inquiries from the News.

On Jan. 11, Molina cut off the board’s remote access to security video in the jails along with access to hand-held video and body camera footage.

In a letter to the board, after new board chairman Dwayne Sampson sent two letters to complain about the video restrictions, Molina claimed the board had an “agenda to portray the Correction Department in a negative light.”

But Masters in her letter Monday said she hoped the department would lift the video ban soon.

“This period has been very unfortunate,” she wrote.

“Oversight — here, the insights of experienced civilian staff inside a jail — is a necessary piece of both good government and maintaining any sustained trust by the governed,” she added. “I have worked to enhance our oversight strength over the past year because a strong BOC is needed.”

Masters urged the board to continue to support the staff that goes regularly into the jails. She noted in the past year, the agency has produced three reports on deaths in the jails, with a fourth report in the works along with reports on women in the jails and the system of reporting serious injuries.

She also appeared to oppose a new resolution by the board under Sampson to reduce the number of meeting each year from nine to six. “The leverage of an ‘impending public meeting agenda’ as an effective way to push for change in between the meetings. It saves lives,” she wrote.

The reduction to the number of meetings was to be decided Tuesday but unexpected problems with the remote meeting audio forced the meeting to be postponed. The board also said just six members of the public would be allowed to speak, a new rule that quickly earned criticism from advocates.

And the board was supposed to mull over DOC’s request to cut off paper mail in favor of digitized letters, and to require packages to be sent only from third-party vendors. That discussion was also delayed by the video meltdown.

Masters cited the board’s advocacy in getting DOC to remove cages in enhanced security housing, a rise in the distribution of Narcan by officers and creation of “de-escalation areas to reduce abuse and neglect after violent incidents” as some of her successes.

“Thank you for allowing me the privilege to serve,” Masters wrote in closing.

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