Tuesday, October 04, 1977

2 Officers Suspended After Rikers Escape

Two corrections officers were suspended yesterday for alleged dereliction of duty as a result of the escape Sunday night of 10 prisoners from the Men’s House of Detention on Riker’s Island. Five, including 3 awaiting trial on murder charges are still at large.
One died trying to swim across the East River. Four others were captured on the island.
“It is a folly for the state to spend over $1 billion a year on the criminal-justice system in order to apprehend and try those who are breaking our laws only to have dozens of those facing the most serious charges break out of jails after they are caught.”
Last July, during and immediately after the power blackout, about a dozen prisoners escaped from Rikers Island. In September 1976 seven prisoners sawed their way out of the institution. (30 in 12 months?) In that breakout a prison guard was charged with providing hacksaws used in the escape. Two of these escapees had been charged with slaying two armored-car guards in a Times Square movie house. In the escape, two of the seven drowned and four were recaptured. One (?) escaped prisoner from that group is still at large.

The suspended officers will be given a departmental trial for reporting a normal occupancy of 218 prisoners in cell block 38 when 10 were missing.

The priosoners placed pillows and rolled up sheets in their beds but the officer’s station was only a few feet away. The prisoners got through a steel door in sight of the officer’s station, went down to the basement, then the subbasement, pried open another door with a tire iron, entered the yard and climged a drain pipe to the roof, crossed the roof, got back down on the ground and made their way to the river.

E. Perlmutter NYT 10/4/77

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