What's Going On at the County Jail
In Our Opinion...
Four weeks ago, in our October 12th issue, We made the point in this column that the time had long ago arrived when the Westchester County Department of Corrections needed a full-time commissioner, whose time and attention were not shared with the management and administration of another department, as is currently the case. Presently, Rocco Pozzi, serves as both the Commissioner of Probation, and the Commissioner of Corrections. We pointed out the fact that the Department of Probation with its many innovative programs, including the Sex Offender Unit, the DWI Unit, and Family Support Unit, has been consistently performing well, but that certain events and conditions at the County Jail, in recent years, clearly suggest that the Department of Corrections was definitely in need of a full-time administrator.
Having learned, from a reliable source, last week, that an inmate at the County Jail had been severely injured, about two weeks earlier, as the result of an altercation with a corrections officer, and that the inmate had been taken to the Westchester County Medical Center, possibly in a coma, we attempted to gather more information. We began making calls to Commissioner Pozzi’s office on Tuesday, November 1st, explaining the nature of our inquiry, and asking for a return call. Two days past, without a callback, or any response from Corrections Commissioner Pozzi or any member of his staff.
Calls to the Westchester Medical Center, Ward 29, produced only an acknowledgement that there were a number of inmates on the ward, but no specific information. Thursday, November 3rd, mid-morning, another call to the Commissioner of Corrections put The Guardian in contact with someone who identified herself as “Dottie,” secretary to Commissioner Pozzi’s Chief of Staff. After learning the nature of our inquiry, she apparently contacted the Corrections Department Press Officer, Vicki Hochman, who, in turn, called our office about a half hour later.
Press Officer Hochman, professed no immediate awareness of any inmate who had been taken to the hospital with severe injuries following an incident with a corrections officer several days earlier. We shared with Hochman our information that the altercation had reportedly occurred on the 3-11pm shift, and involved an officer on mandated forcible overtime, who had been assigned to a high-tension area. We explained that we were on deadline, and would appreciate a response by 3pm, allowing almost five hours for a return call.
The Westchester Guardian labors under no illusion with regard to transparency, and Westchester County Government. We are fully aware of the fact that County employees, even those not in key, or policy making positions, may not give information, of any kind, to the press without prior clearance from Larry Schwartz, and/or Susan Tolchin.
As We stated one month ago, We again call upon the County Executive, and the County Board of Legislators to immediately consider the hiring of a full-time Commissioner of Corrections, whose job description would prohibit any other form of employment.