Horizon correction officers say they lack resources for dangerous new inmates

City Council members Andy King (left) and Robert Holden (center) stand with Elias Husamudeen (right) of the Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association at a rally in front of Horizon Juvenile Center on Oct. 3. Photo: Phonz L. Reyes

Brawl between detainees leads to 20 injuries to officers

Advocates for correction officers were joined are demanding that the city rethink its decision to move dangerous young offenders from Rikers Island into the Horizon Juvenile Center.

At an Oct. 3 press conference in front of the Melrose-based detention center, the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA) argued that the facility lacks the resources to cope with the kind of gang violence he and some elected officials fear the new policy brings with it. Earlier that afternoon a gang fight erupted inside the facility, injuring 20 correctional officers,

“The 16- and 17-year-olds that we have in this building are violent,” said Elias Husamudeen, COBA’s president.

“These are not the turnstile jumpers, these are not the people urinating in the park, these are not open container people. In this building we have bloods, crypts, trinitarios, you name them they’re here,” he added. “Ninety-nine percent of these 16- and 17-year-olds are gang members.”

Roughly ninety teens were taken off the jail on Rikers Island and placed into Horizon on October 1 due to the “Raise the Age” legislation that aims to stop minors from being treated as adults when they are taken into custody. The legislation promises to house teens in more humane facilities that will aid them in age-appropriate services. 

Horizon lacks services needed to properly house the inmates, such as psychiatric and social service resources, Husamudeen said, adding that the facility instead relies too heavily on correctional officers routinely forced to perform their job duties without the same tools officers on Rikers Island have, such as pepper spray. “The state has decided that pepper spray or spray for 16- and 17-year-olds is inhumane. This is pure insanity.”

Standing alongside Husamudeen, City Council member Andy King reiterated the officer’s concern that Horizon is ill-equipped to handle detainees from Rikers.

“If we’re going to create a new system in order for them to get their lives in order and get right, then we as adults have to do the right thing,” said King, whose district northern Bronx neighborhoods.

By requiring Horizon correctional officers to fulfill the functions of counselors and social workers, the city is making a big mistake, King said, adding that the young man who led the Oct. 3 attack should have been transferred into Horizon through Hunts Point’s floating jail barge, also known as the Vernon C. Bain Center, which has more staff to handle intake and processing of inmates. 

Husamudeen said that his biggest fear is that a corrections officer could be killed the next time this happens.

“We’re saying to the city of New York shut Horizon down today immediately until it can be made safe,” he said.