Rikers Island guards and staff are ‘usually’ source of drugs at the jail, investigator testifies

A city Correction Department investigator testified in federal court Tuesday that drugs and other contraband found on Rikers Island “usually” comes in through corrupt officers and staff at the troubled jail complex.

Speaking at the Brooklyn Federal Court trial of a detainee accused of bribing correction officers to smuggle in drugs, Andrew Walker, an investigator with the Department of Correction, described crooked correction officers as one of the primary ways inmates get drugs into Rikers.

“They usually use officers and civilian staff,” Walker said. “For a female, they put it in their upper area. Guys will put it in their lower area. Anything that they can hide they will try to hide as long as it doesn’t beep when it goes through…. All officers have to put their belongings on the line scan, and they have to clear a metal detector.”

Rikers Island

Rikers Island (Seth Wenig/AP)

Walker, who’s assigned to work with the city Department of Investigation, testified that the DOI will search correction officers further “if we know that they’re bringing in contraband into the facility.”

The testimony comes during an ongoing crisis at Rikers, which has seen a surge of detainee deaths and overdoses over the past two years. A judge earlier this month ruled it was ‘premature’ to put the jail complex into federal receivership.

Walker’s testimony also undercuts the city Corrections Commissioner’s assertions in a radio interview this year that officers only smuggled “on occasion,” and that a significant amount of drugs enter the jail system through the mail.

Last month, Commissioner Louis Molina told a City Council oversight committee that fentanyl use was on the rise in the jail complex, explaining that “most of it enters with letters and packages laced with fentanyl, literally soaked in the drug and mailed to people in custody.”

The Department of Correction did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Walker testified as an expert witness in the trial of James Albert ‚46, who’s accused of bribing correction officers in 2019 s to bring in drugs, which he’d resell to his fellow prisoners. On Monday, former Correction Officer Patrick Legerme gave a blow-by-blow account of how he brought marijuana into the George R. Vierno Center on Rikers for a $1,500 bribe.

Walker said he worked in the jail system’s correction intelligence bureau for four years before working exclusively on contraband probes with the Department of Investigation for the past two-and-a-half years.

He’s conducted more than 500 investigations involving contraband, over the years, and while working with the DOI, he’s been involved in roughly 20 corruption investigations, he said.

Walker uses jailhouse informants, a regularly-updated dictionary of criminal code words, recorded phone conversations and various writings found in jail cells to aid in his investigations, and about 95 to 98 % of the searches he’s been involved in have turned up contraband, he testified.

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