In the days leading up to the World Trade Center attack, New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Facility was using uniforms and other prison-issued gear to make sure inmates were wearing the proper clothes to work in their new jail.
The move was part of a larger strategy to ensure the new facilities were “comfortable” for the men who would be housed in them, said the prison’s director of facilities, Mark Schlosser.
It was part-of a larger program to improve the men’s working conditions in the New York City jail system, which had suffered from a decline in inmates in recent years.
But after the 9/11 attacks, the prison system began to see an increase in violence and prisoner assaults, with inmates using the facilities to attack each other and to harass staff.
In 2003, Schlosses office began a new program to address these concerns, he said.
And with the advent of cell phones, security cameras, and a new emphasis on social media, the facilities were no longer able to keep up with the pace of the attacks, he added.
So in March of 2014, Schloser and others at the Metropolitan Correctional Facilities began creating uniformed outfits for each inmate.
The idea was to make the prisoners feel like they belonged at the jail and not a prisoner in the prison.
“The uniforms were meant to be a kind of a uniform for the inmates,” Schlosers office said.
“They were meant for them to go out and interact with each other.”
For inmates who were assigned to work with the new security cameras and for whom working with the security cameras meant their lives were in danger, Schonser said, the uniforms helped make the guards feel safer.
“They were not just going to be here and they were not going to get beat up or anything like that,” Schlossers said.
“We want to give them a sense of belonging, to be able to feel like we care about them.”
The uniforms and equipment used at the Metcalfs new facility in New York, June 18, 2018.
Photo by David McNew/Getty ImagesFor inmates at the New Jersey prison, wearing the uniforms was about “self-preservation,” said a guard.
And it was also about “just being safe, and not feeling threatened by anyone,” said the guard, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his job.
The uniform was a way for inmates to show that they were able to take care of themselves, the guard said.
And inmates also were able “to see the corrections officer,” he added, who was there to monitor the inmates.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police Department said it was “shocked and dismayed” by the uniforms and that it was investigating the matter.
“Metropolitan Correctional Facility staff members were instructed to wear the uniforms to maintain their own safety,” the department said.
Inmates at the prison in Newark, New Jersey, who were on duty during the attacks on the World Tower, wear their uniform and other corrections equipment on June 12, 2018, as part of efforts to combat crime.
Photo via APA spokesman for the prison, Michael D. Connell, said in a statement that the department “is investigating the incident.”
He added that prison staff were being trained on proper safety measures.
“While we do not have a full timeline of the incident at the MCC, we can confirm that it occurred during a very challenging time for our staff, as we were preparing to return to our normal routine of daily routine work and scheduled visitation schedules,” Connell said.
He said the uniform program is part of an overall plan to “ensure that inmates and visitors feel safe and secure, and are free to do their jobs without fear of violence.”
Schlosser said he thinks the uniforms make the prison feel safer and that the guards and guards’ supervisors should have known about it before it occurred.
“I think the uniform was just a way to make them feel comfortable, and it was just something that we did to help them be safe,” he said, adding that the inmates had no idea the uniforms were being worn.
“There was no need for it, other than to help us be a little bit more organized.”
Schlosers’ office said the program has been in place for three years, and he said that inmates will be able see and interact in the new uniforms when they arrive in the future.
“Our staff is going to do everything we can to make it work as smoothly as possible for them,” he wrote.