Magazine article Corrections Forum

On the Winning Team

Magazine article Corrections Forum

On the Winning Team

Article excerpt

Crime is down almost 80% in New York City's toughest precinct - a precinct that does not have a single NYPD radio car patrolling its streets. In fact, there are no cops in this precinct; it is the last place they want to be. New York's toughest precinct is Rikers Island, and it is there that the City's deepest decline in violence, ironically, has taken place. While much has been written about the success of NYPD's efforts to reduce crime and enhance the quality of life in New York City, little has been reported about the frequently forgotten and hidden element of New York's criminal justice system--the jails. On this fearinspiring 440 acres situated in the East River between the Bronx and Queens, another organizational revolution has taken place; the New York City Department of Correction has taken back the jails from the inmates.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who once was responsible for overseeing the Federal Bureau of Prisons during his tenure in the Department of Justice, has noted on a number of unheralded accomplishments of the Department of Correction. "Now more than ever before, we need jails that perform at peak efficiency because we are getting more and more criminals off the street," stated Mayor Giuliani. "...Through a combination of high-tech analysis and back-to-basics management, the Department of Corrections is a real success story. Its accomplishments are really an untold story," stated the Mayor.

Over the last four years, violence in New York City's jails is down a dramatic 79%. The driving force behind this is dubbed TEAMS, an acronym for Total Efficiency Accountability Management System. "TEAMS revolutionized this agency," stated Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, the architect of this innovative management system. "We now have in place a strategic plan that holds managers strictly accountable for a specific set of performance indicators."

Commissioner Kerik, a former New York City Police Detective, had served as First Deputy Correction Commissioner. It was in that position that he realized that command accountability was not linked with a systematic approach toward accomplishing agency goals. "We had creative managers, but they all did their own thing; it was not within the context of meeting department-wide objectives," stated Kerik who was appointed Commissioner last January by Mayor Giuliani.

A TEAM Approach

Over 133,000 offenders pass through the gates into the New York City Department of Correction each year. The agency, the largest municipal jail system in the nation, is composed of over 11,000 uniformed personnel and 1,600 civilian employees, and has a budget of $800 million. At any given time, there could be from 18,000 to 22,000 inmates housed in any of the agency's 16 facilities. Rikers Island alone is home to 10 jails.

Approximately once a month, wardens and their deputies are summoned to a conference center on Rikers Island for a TEAMS forum, an interactive session with their superiors. Sitting at a dais in a large conference room is the high command of the department, including the Commissioner, the First Deputy Commissioner and the Chief of the Department. Executives are prepared to pepper commanders with questions, for instance, about specific assaults that occurred between inmates belonging to rival gangs, or about a rise in a jail's overtime. The process is fueled by real-time data collection and colorful charts that indicate trend analyses for each jail. Large screens display data to the 65 to 70 TEAMS participants, who sometimes include representatives from other law enforcement agencies. …

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