Beat up an inmate, or smuggle drugs into Rikers Island, and a correction officer might not be fired, but instead asked to sit in an empty room for eight hours a day, still receiving full pay and benefits.
The New York Daily News has the story of the New York City Department of Correction’s answer to “rubber rooms,” the infamous purgatorial spaces where city teachers are placed when they face disciplinary action. According to the News, about 80 correction officers are currently on modified duty while they await disciplinary or criminal verdicts for alleged infractions such as the aforementioned violence and drug smuggling. Some of these officers are given assignments such as staffing on-site convenience stores for fellow Rikers employees, while others sit doing nothing in a room known as “The Pumps.” Others are assigned to “guard” a 10-story jail that sits adjacent to the Queens courthouse, which has sat completely empty and unused for 14 years.
Guards on modified duty continue to be paid and receive benefits, at a taxpayer cost of about $5 million per year, the News estimated. Often, their disciplinary cases and associated stints on modified duty stretch out for multiple years.
Stuck in a small room all day, every day, with nothing to do for entertainment or edification and no end in sight. It’s sort of an ironic fate for men and women who are accused, among other things, of mistreating prisoners. Hey, at least they’re still getting paid, and there are no abusive guards watching over them.