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After Stripping Crucial Jail Services, NYC Splurges on $90,000 in Submachine Guns for Rikers Island Guards

by Jordan Arizmendi

According to a purchase order posted online by the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services on June 22, 2023, the city Department of Correction [DOC] paid a southern New Jersey gun distributor $91,171.50 for MP5 submachine guns for guards at its Rikers Island jail complex. That follows another $93,845 purchase of M10 rifles from a Rochester wholesaler, which was recorded on the same site on October 31, 2022. There are just a few problems with this.

For starters guards at Rikers Island are forbidden from carrying weapons while working in its jail locations. The purchase also comes just a few weeks after city Mayor Eric Adams (D) eliminated $17 million in services aimed at helping the incarcerated find work and housing, stay clean and reconnect with loved ones – attempting to balance the city budget on their backs.

Moreover, it’s hard to think of a reason that a jail guard would need so much firepower to confront detainees who, at worst, may be armed with a sharpened toothbrush or bedpost. A spokesperson for DOC said the guns are to be used by a specially trained team, in exceptional circumstances – like 9/11, according to Marc Bullaro, a former assistant deputy warden at Rikers Island. After the terrorist attack leveled the former World Trade Center in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, guards from DOC’s Emergency Services Unit patrolled a section of Queens, directly on the other side of the bridge leading to Rikers Island. It’s unclear if such Rambo-esque firepower was used that day, nor if it has ever been needed since. Even Bullaro said, “These weapons will never be used by DOC.”

Meanwhile, the contracts that were apparently trashed in order to pay for them provided detainees with lessons in reading skills, carpentry and plumbing, as well as drug relapse programs. The final day for this programming was June 30, 2023 – a tremendous loss for the incarcerated men and women whose chances are now dimmer of getting a job or staying sober upon release. It’s also a loss for the employees who taught the classes, many of them former detainees themselves.


Source: Gothamist, New York Post

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