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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Wards Island Psych Center to Transfer Insane Patients to Manhattan; Fears Sparked

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By: Rusty Brooks

Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on Wards Island holds some of the most dangerous and deranged patients including serial killers and the infamous cannibal Daniel Rackowitz and it’s about to close.

The NY Times report states officials are planning to close Kirby and move its entire population — a decision that has created something close to panic among some of the staff, who say the new quarters are not safe for patients or employees.

The move will transfer the facility’s more than 200 prisoners, including 50 deemed criminally insane, from a fortresslike building with bars on the windows and cement walls and ceilings into a unit of Manhattan Psychiatric Center, a civilian hospital close by on Wards Island, the Times reported.

The move is causing major panic from workers at Kirby. The union representing the maximum-security facility staff are filing a lawsuit in hopes of securing a short-term injunction against the move.

Guards and former guards have created an online petition calling on the state’s mental health commissioner and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to “do the right thing and halt this move” to ensure their safety, the Times reported.

Officials say the move, planned for January, is necessary because Kirby’s building has grown outdated, but staff members at Manhattan Psychiatric center say the hospital is not equipped to handle patients who are dangerous serial killers and violent psychopaths.

“These are not normal mental patients,” Catherine Mortiere, a forensic psychologist at Kirby told The Times “They are some of the most violent inmates in the state.”

The state Office of Mental Health called Kirby’s building “antiquated.”

“The safety and security of our staff and the people we serve are O.M.H.’s top priority,” a spokesman said in a statement. “When our facilities become outdated, we work to refurbish, rebuild and update them in order to utilize the best practices and state-of-the-art safety features to ensure the well-being of our patients and staff.”

Stephen Harkavy, the deputy director of Mental Hygiene Legal Service, which represents the patients, said the new area will be inspected before patients are moved. “A lot of these concerns are premature, until that happens,” he said. “If they find changes need to be made, I would assume they will implement them.” Harkavy believes the danger is overstated.

One can assume he is comfortable around a cannibal like Daniel Rackowitz.

Others from Kirby don’t feel the same way. One doctor said it was not unusual for employees to be assaulted. The doctor, who said he had been assaulted twice, described “physician colleagues punched unconscious,” “staff having to fight off coordinated attacks,” “brawls,” and guards attacked with feces and, in one case, a porcelain shard from a shattered toilet, The NY Times reported.

Many employees feel the Kirby facility is a solid and safe building and just needs some minor repairs and that this is part of a broader plan to consolidate facilities in order to save money.

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