- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - In a story May 12 about a delayed vote on proposed visitation changes at the Rikers Island jail complex, The Associated Press inaccurately described suggested changes for visits with limited contact. Department of Correction officials say they would take place at tables with 6-inch plastic glass dividers that making passing contraband between inmates and visitors difficult, not in booths.

A corrected version of the story is below:

No vote on proposed restrictions to NYC jail visitors

Vote delayed on controversial restrictions to visits at NYC’s Rikers Island jail complex

By JAKE PEARSON

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - A vote on proposed restrictions on visits at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex was postponed Tuesday after correction officials told oversight board members they had not yet drafted a petition outlining the changes they were seeking.

Commissioner Joseph Ponte has suggested limiting contact between inmates and relatives and friends to a hug and a kiss at the beginning and end of certain visits, creating a registry of visitors, denying visits by alleged gang members and other changes.

Visits that limit contact would take place at tables with 6-inch plastic glass dividers that would make it difficult for inmates and visitors to pass contraband.

The proposed changes were mentioned by Ponte and Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this year as part of their overall effort to reduce surging levels of violence. There have been 44 stabbings and slashings this year, up from 20 at the same time last year, jail statistics show.

But the visitation restrictions generally described by correction officials have been met with skepticism by some board members and advocates, who note that most recovered weapons are improvised from materials found inside the jails. They also argue that restricting visits makes inmates more agitated and prone to violence.

Nearly 80 percent of the 2,100 shanks and shivs recovered in Rikers last year were made out of broken light fixtures, metal pipes, broomsticks and other items, according to a report by the oversight board released last month.

Asked about the weapons smuggled into jails, Ponte told reporters after the meeting they’re brought inside in many different ways and his plan was to “tighten up” security everywhere. A report in November by the Department of Investigation highlighted porous security at Rikers after an undercover investigator dressed as a jail guard successfully smuggled drugs, alcohol and a razor blade into multiple Rikers jails.

Department officials said that from July to April, 29 visitors have been arrested for trying to smuggle weapons to inmates at Rikers. About 300,000 people visit inmates at Rikers every year.

Dr. Bobby Cohen, an oversight board member who chairs a subcommittee on violence, said at Tuesday’s public meeting that only seven inmates were found with a weapon after a visit in fiscal year 2014 and four have been found with a weapon in fiscal 2015.

“The friends and families of the men and women on Rikers Island are not the cause of violence,” Cohen said. “Visiting should be supported, not demonized, and visitors should be welcomed, not humiliated.”

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