By Bill Parry
Rikers Island was on lockdown Friday and a prison guard is recovering after a brutal attack at the hands of two prisoners Thursday afternoon.
Correction Officer Ray Calderon, 31, was distracted by a prisoner identified as Darnel Green, 19, while opening a jail cell.
Calderon was then jumped and held in a chokehold by 18-year-old inmates named William Whitfield around 4:30 p.m. Once on the ground, the officer was repeatedly slashed on the head, face and arms, sources said.
Calderon was taken to the hospital in serious but stable condition, according to the Department of Correction.
“I am outraged by this horrific attack,” DOC Joseph Ponte said. “Attacks against the hardworking men and women who serve in our department are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I visited the officer in the hospital last night, and told him that we will do everything possible to support him and his family during this ordeal.”
Calderon was treated and released from the hospital late Thursday. Meanwhile, the DOC is conducting Tactical Search Operations to root out contraband, officials say.
The attack occurred as a reform movement is underway to change the culture of brutality that has plagued Rikers Island for years. Two weeks ago, Federal District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain approved the settlement of a class action suit, that drew support from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, that calls for thousands of surveillance cameras, oversight by a federal monitor and a new use-of- force policy for correction officers.
Norman Seabrook, the president of the Correction Officer’s Benevolent Association reacted angrily to the attack.
“On the eve of new ‘use of force’ guidelines from the Department of Correction, which we were not consulted on, one of our members is laying in a hospital bleeding from multiple slash wounds to his head and face,” Seabrook said. “Our members face life and death danger every single day when they walk into work, and incidents like this are exactly why we need to be part of these policy discussions. It is an outrage that the lives and safety of brave Correction Officers like this young man do not seem to be a priority.”
DOC officials say the first priority of its new 14-point anti-violence initiative is keeping weapons, drugs and other contraband out of prison facilities.
“DOC immediately arrested the inmates involved, and they are being arraigned today,” Ponte said. “Safety is our top priority and we will continue to take every step to ensure the safety and security of our staff and inmates.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr