Guards hurt in brawl at Bronx juvenile facility
NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - Almost two dozen New York City correction officers were injured breaking up a gang-related fight inside Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx. Correction officers suffered injuries to their arms, wrists, necks, and backs because they had nothing to defend themselves.
Video obtained by Fox 5 News on Friday shows the chaos as guards tried to get things under control. The officers were moving inmates to a mess hall when other inmates ran up and starting attacking the group.
"This place has to be shut down until this could be made safe. It needs to be shut down," said Elias Husamudeen of the officers' union. "It wasn't ready October first and it's not ready today."
By law, pepper spray is not allowed inside juvenile detention centers. But at Rikers Island it is. The city requested a waiver to allow correction officers to carry and use pepper spray at Horizon. But the state denied that request.
Former detainee Vidal Guzman, who works with Just Leadership USA, a group that aims to cut the number of people under correctional supervision in half by the year 2030, agrees pepper spray shouldn't be allowed and neither should correction officers.
"The Department of Correction doesn't have the proper people working there," Guzman said, adding that the facility staff needs to be better trained to interact with teens.
Horizon opened Monday. It houses about a hundred 16- and 17-year-old detainees removed from Rikers island. It is part of the state's new raise the age law to remove these teens from the general population at Rikers and into a facility to treat these teens as juveniles.
"It is a brand-new approach. It's certainly going to take some work to perfect it but we must keep those facilities secure," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "There's going to be a lot of programming. I think one of the things we found in the whole history we've had here with Corrections is the more programming the better."
But Husamudeen said a correction officer is going to get killed.
The Administration for Children's Services issued a statement about the attack.
"We are in a transitionary period for a historic reform that's never been done before and there have been some incidents involving youth and officers, which were quickly addressed," ACS spokesperson Chanel Caraway said. "None of the injuries were serious, but we take these and all incidents seriously."
Correction commissioner Cynthia Brann issued a statement Wednesday night thanking the officers for their courage.
"They have repeatedly put themselves in harm's way to break up a number of fights and I want to commend them on their professionalism and commitment to this important reform," Brann said. "Our officers' health and safety remain our top priority, and we always encourage them to have any and all possible injuries checked out by medical professionals to ensure their wellbeing."