It isn’t just in California (here, here, here, here, here, here) that the political power of guard unions makes prisons hard to reform. In December the New York Times investigated the head of the guards’ union in New York City, Norman Seabrook, seen as “the biggest obstacle to efforts to curb brutality and malfeasance” at the city’s notorious Rikers Island, and noted that most elected officials are reluctant to be quoted discussing him by name, sometimes due to “fears about their safety while visiting Rikers” if they get on his wrong side. Seabrook has derailed investigators, reformers, and oversight officials for years:
Perhaps the most naked display of Mr. Seabrook’s power came on Nov. 18, 2013, when a Rikers inmate, Dapree Peterson, was scheduled to testify against two correction officers in a brutality case. Mr. Seabrook essentially shut down the city’s courts by sidelining the buses that ferry inmates to and from court, interviews and documents show. As a result, hundreds of inmates missed court dates, including Mr. Peterson, whose beating had been investigated and referred for prosecution by [deputy commissioner for investigation Florence] Finkle.
The blockage also caused 49 inmates to miss scheduled medical appointments at Bellevue Hospital Center.
Full story here. More: John McGinnis (despite personal tone of Times’s criticism of Seabrook, his actions respond to the predictable incentives of a union leader), Daniel DiSalvo, Washington Examiner (unions can win popularity by preventing discipline of misbehaving workers), Ed Krayewski, Kevin Williamson. See also our coverage of correctional officers “bill of rights” laws in Maryland, Pennsylvania, etc. here, here, here, and here.