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Rikers inmate tries to escape wearing stolen NYC correction officer’s uniform, DOC says

The inmate walked around the jail wearing the stolen correctional officer uniform and pretended to conduct rounds

New York Department of Corrections

James Keivom

By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — An assault suspect held in a Rikers Island jail somehow got his hands on a Correction Department uniform Thursday night and walked around pretending to conduct rounds in a possible attempt to escape, according to correction sources, officials and records.

Bokeem Jones, 28, donned the DOC uniform — including the official shirt, jackets, trousers and boots — in the Otis M. Bantum Correctional Center at some point before 10:30 p.m., the sources said.

He walked into an intake area in the stolen uniform momentarily then left as if he was touring the housing area like an officer. He then was walking down a corridor when officers “recognized” him at about 10:25 p.m., records show.

“Inmate Jones was in a DOC uniform impersonating an officer,” a preliminary report on the incident obtained by The News said.

They ordered him to stop. He refused and supposedly took a “fighting stance,” the records show. Three officers then used pepper spray to subdue him, put him in shackles, and placed him in an intake holding cell.

The incident was reported just over an hour later to DOC’s Central Operations Desk at 11:46 p.m.

The ensuing investigation kept the entire jail locked down until early Friday morning, the sources said.

How Jones obtained the uniform was unclear.

The inmate has been on Rikers since his arrest in January 2022 for first-degree assault in Brooklyn.

DOC spokesman Patrick Rocchio said the incident is under investigation.

“(He) tried to escape by disguising himself in a DOC uniform and attempting to leave a secure area,” Rocchio said. “Officers identified the detainee in a hallway and quickly took him into custody.”

The Bantum Center was closed and then was partially reopened at some point in the past year, one of several jails that experienced closures and re-openings in the past couple of years as part of reorganizations.

“The closures and subsequent re-openings may be beneficial in the long term, but they are destabilizing in the short term,” the federal monitor wrote in a July 10 report.

The possible security breakdown comes as a new controversy has erupted that has highlighted disagreements between DOC leadership and the correction unions.

Earlier this week, DOC ordered a cap on overtime for officers of all ranks, records show. Assistant deputy wardens are now capped at 42 hours a month, captains at 47 hours and correction officers at 57 hours, records show.

“Effective immediately, there will be absolutely NO OVERTIME FOR ALL staff that have reached their overtime limits,” wrote Assistant Commissioner Ned McCormick in a memo seen by The News.

However, the corrections unions have been sounding alarm bells over short staffing from the end of the de Blasio era throughout the Adams era.

Earlier this week, after several officers were injured in two separate attacks by inmates, correction officers union head Benny Boscio said, “It’s time for the leadership of this agency to hold assaultive inmates accountable for their crimes instead of suspending our members who are dealing with impossible situations.”

Boscio also said, “After 16 monitor reports, correction officers remain sitting ducks for repeat violent offenders who continue to be coddled by this agency.”

In one incident, inmate Michael Megginson slashed three officers with a piece of a broken pipe. The News previously reported that Megginson had assaulted dozens of officers over the past year, but little had been done.

Instead, as The News also first reported, Correction Commissioner Louis Molina ordered the suspension of Captain Awais Ghauri merely for writing an internal email pleading for more help with a security plan for handling Megginson.

In the past two weeks, the alliance has been shaken further by a sea change in the question of whether an outside receiver should be appointed to run the jails as the rates of violence and staff uses of excessive force continue to remain much higher than they were eight years when the federal monitor was first appointed.

First, the monitor in the case strongly recommended to Laura Taylor Swain, the judge in the case, that she initiate contempt proceedings against the city.

Then last week, US Attorney in Manhattan Damian Williams said he would seek a court-appointed receiver.

Meanwhile, there have been three jail deaths this month for a total of 7 in 2023, the most recent being that of Curtis Davis who died early Sunday, leading to suspensions of three officers for unspecified procedural violations.

There were 19 deaths in the jails in 2022 and 16 in 2021.

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