Taxpayers foot bill for Rikers Island inmates’ pizza parties, held to reward good behavior

Taxpayers foot bill for Rikers Island inmates’ pizza parties, held to reward good behavior
Rikers Island inmates are rewarded with pizza parties for good behavior, a new report said. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The New York Post reported Sunday that prisoners at New York’s Rikers Island prison are being treated to pizza parties in an effort to laud good behavior.

What?

Yes, pizza parties for good behavior.

The pizza was Domino’s Pizza, the Post report specified, and it was provided to the inmates for not acting violently against one another.

According to the Post, more than two dozen pizzas were ordered and delivered to inmates at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center, which houses some of New York City’s most dangerous offenders, inside the Central Punitive Segregation Unit.

The Post reported that these pizza parties began in 2014 under ex-commissioner Joseph Ponte. The program was later dubbed “Hug-a-Thug” by prison guards, according to the Post.

A spokesperson for the Correction Department told the Post that the pizza bill totaled about $400. That $400 provided 75 inmates with two slices apiece.

Inmates who “reached a key milestone” in a “work skills program” were rewarded with the pizza.

The Post reported that inmate-on-guard violence is down 65 percent since the 2014 fiscal year.

What are people saying about this?

Patrick Ferraiuolo — president of the Correction Captains’ Association — told the Post that pizza deliveries violate the facility rules and admitted that taxpayer money pays for the prisoners’ pizzas.

“Since when is bringing food in from the outside not considered contraband?” Ferraiuolo asked. “It’s not jail food that’s part of the everyday menu.”

Union delegate David Fitzgerald said, “It’s deplorable and disgusting because you have officers that aren’t even afforded a meal leave, and you’re rewarding these inmates with pizza and sodas for good behavior.”

An unnamed Rikers union leader added, “I’m not a fan of rewarding inmates when they don’t beat the crap out of one another.”

Peter Thorne, a spokesperson for Rikers, told the Post, “This was not ‘pizza-gate.’ We gave a couple of slices each to inmates participating in a program that helps reduce violence. And we’d do it again, because these programs are working.”

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