- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Two teenage inmates have been charged with attacking a corrections officer at the troubled Rikers Island jail complex, using a sharp object to slash the guard in the face so severely he required 22 stitches, court papers show.

William Whitfield, 18, and Darnell Green, 19, did not enter pleas at their arraignment Friday in Bronx Criminal Court. They were ordered held on $500,000 bail on assault and other charges stemming from the attack Thursday evening on Officer Ray Calderon.

An attorney for Whitfield, who is being held at Rikers on an attempted murder charge, said his client was presumed innocent and planned to contest the charges. A lawyer for Green, who is being detained at Rikers in a murder case, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Green approached Calderon from behind and wrapped both arms around his neck, choking him as Whitfield advanced with a sharp object, according to a criminal complaint. Calderon then kicked Whitfield, fell to the ground with Green and was slashed on the left side of his face along his forehead, cheek and ear, as well as his right wrist, the court papers show.

Calderon was released from a hospital Thursday night with 22 stiches in his face and four on his wrist, officials said.

“Attacks against the hardworking men and women who serve in our department are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” jails commissioner Joe Ponte said in a statement.

Exactly what type of sharp object was used in the attack wasn’t immediately clear, and officials said investigators are examining how the inmates obtained it.

The attack comes as officials struggle to quell jailhouse violence in city lockups and reform the corrections system overall, particularly among the roughly 1,200 hard-to-manage inmates ages 18 to 21. Earlier this year, jail officials said they were moving such inmates, who beginning next year will be exempt from solitary confinement, into a single facility where they’ll receive more counseling and activities.

An estimated 400 young adult inmates are alleged gang members responsible for nearly a third of violent incidents where weapons are used, jail statistics show. And union officials have criticized revised court-mandated use-of-force guidelines that they say will increase danger in the jails, make attacks like the one on Calderon more common.

“Correction officers have the right to return home to their families safely every night,” said Norman Seabrook, president of the union that represents roughly 9,000 officers.

City officials have moved to restrict visitors to Rikers, arguing those visits are an entry point for weapons. But a report earlier this year found that nearly 80 percent of the 2,100 weapons recovered in city jails in 2014 were shivs and shanks made out of materials found inside the jails.

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