The violence that’s plagued the Bronx’s Horizon Juvenile Center ever since it began taking in 16- and 17-year-old inmates from Rikers Island has dropped drastically over the last week — to practically zero assaults.
Since last Friday, there have been no attacks on correction officers or staff, according to new figures by the city Department of Correction and the Administration of Children’s Services.
There have also been no fights between inmates since Sunday — and city correction officers haven’t even received the pepper spray they said they needed to quell violence, officials said.
It’s a drastic change from the beginning of the month, when there were 10 fights between inmates on the first three days alone. In the first week, 10 jailers were assaulted — prompting the state to give officers temporary permission to use pepper spray, which initially was prohibited.
A provisional waiver was granted three days after a teen slammed a guard’s face with a department walkie-talkie, leaving the guard with a broken and bleeding nose.
On Thursday, in an interview with the Daily News, Horizon Warden Ada Pressley said the inmates have successfully settled into a routine of classwork and begun participating in a variety of social and psychological programs.
“When we first transitioned over here, (inmates) had a lot of idle time, but now it’s going great,” Pressley said. “The people that were having doubts about this … and the youth coming from Rikers, they thought it wasn’t going to be great, but we’re doing great.”
Officials said things began calming down after some modest design changes to classrooms, including nailing down desks and frosting windows so teens can’t see passing rivals.
ACS also brought in more programs for the teens and began rewarding good behavior — allowing the inmates to have movie nights and “Friday Night Jam” sessions if they behave for extended periods of time.
The teens are also awarded with time in the “elite lounge” — a kitchen where they can cook their own food, according to Leslie Britt, executive director of ACS’ Division of Youth and Family Justice.
“The kids look forward to those programs, so they know that if they misbehave or do something egregious they wouldn’t be able to participate, so they’re really maintaining behavior so they can go,” Britt said.
Not everyone is convinced that those measures alone will curb assaults at the facility.
“Until gang members are separated and the correction officers are allowed full use of their tools, violent incidents will continue to occur at Horizon,” said Elias Husamudeen, the president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association.