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Bronx District Attorney Opens Prosecution Bureau on Rikers Island

By Eddie Small | September 22, 2016 4:56pm
 Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte spoke at Thursday's official opening of her office's bureau on Rikers Island.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte spoke at Thursday's official opening of her office's bureau on Rikers Island.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

RIKERS ISLAND — The Bronx District Attorney’s Office officially opened its new prosecution bureau at Rikers Island on Thursday, fulfilling a promise that DA Darcel Clark made in her inauguration in January.

The bureau consists of a staff of 14, including investigators, administrators and assistant district attorneys who would work closely on crimes committed among inmates and visitors to the jail complex, whether smuggling contraband or violence, according to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office.

It cost about $1.8 million to get the bureau up and running, and while the facility itself is modest, housed in an off-white trailer filled with desks and computers, Clark insisted in her remarks on opening day that it was more than "just a trailer."

“I knew that improving the conditions for everyone on Rikers Island would be a key part of improving the criminal justice system,” she said, “and that meant having an office on Rikers Island.”

The bureau is meant to make the jail complex a safer place by ensuring faster prosecution of crimes, and Clark said her office is already working on investigations of gang violence and the smuggling of contraband on the island.

She hopes the new bureau transforms Rikers from a place that is notorious for its violence and corruption into a place where people are treated humanely, and said her office will seek consecutive sentences for inmates who commit violent crimes.

“Being on site, the Bronx District Attorney’s office will bring another set of eyes and ears to Rikers Island,” she said.

Deanna Logan will head up the site as Chief of the Rikers Island Prosecution Bureau. She's worked as Assistant Commissioner in the Trials Litigation Division for the Department of Correction, and has served in the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

The Rikers bureau will be working closely with the DOC to conduct investigations, officials said.

Clark has made reforming Rikers Island one of her top priorities since her inauguration this year. Her office has charged multiple inmates and correction officers with taking part in a smuggling ring at the jail, and she won convictions against eight correction officers this summer who were accused of attacking and attempting to cover up their attack of inmate Jahmal Lightfoot.

She stressed that the bureau at Rikers would focus only on prosecuting crimes committed by inmates and visitors. Her office's Public Integrity Bureau will head up investigations of correction officers, although there will occasionally be joint investigations.

Clark hopes to establish a courthouse on Rikers Island as well to help handle crimes committed at the jailhouse and would like to have something to that effect in place by the end of her first year in office, she said.

Correction Officers' Benevolent Association President Elias Husamudeen spoke at the bureau’s opening as well, and while he said that he and the Bronx District Attorney’s office did not always agree, he was grateful that their office would now have a physical presence at the jail.

“This is a day that most of us have been looking for for a long time,” he said.