New York City Board of Correction member Jacqueline Sherman will be re-appointed to her current position when her term expires next Monday, City & State has exclusively learned. Sherman has been nominated for re-appointment by appellate judges Dianne Renwick and Hector LaSalle, the presiding justices of the First and Second Department, respectively, of the court system’s Appellate Division. The two presiding justices are responsible for appointing three of the nine members of the Board of Correction, an independent watchdog that monitors conditions in city jails and evaluates the performance of the Department of Correction.
“Justices Renwick and LaSalle have submitted their appointment recommendation for nomination to the Board of Correction to the Mayor’s Office of Appointments. They have chosen to nominate for reappointment Jacqueline Sherman,” said Lucian Chalfen, spokesperson for the New York State Unified Court System.
“I am honored by the confidence of Presiding Justices Renwick and LaSalle and eager to continue working, alongside my Board colleagues and with our partners in government and the advocacy community, to address the crucial issues central to the Board’s mission under the City Charter,” Sherman told City & State.
Sherman’s reappointment will maintain the current balance of power on the Board of Correction. As City & State previously reported, advocates and sources close to the Board of Correction had feared that Sherman would be replaced with someone who opposed the board’s lawsuit against the DOC, which the board filed after DOC denied it access to video footage from Rikers Island jails.
Who is Sherman?
In addition to serving as a member of the Board of Correction, Sherman is the general counsel for the city’s Independent Budget Office. She was first appointed to the Board of Correction in July 2018 to complete the term of former board member Gerard Bryant, who disappeared after making a series of questionable public comments during board meetings. Sherman's background as a staid Harvard law school attorney with years of public service as an attorney for the City Council, city Administrator for Child Services and Public Advocate helped to shape many of the board’s most difficult rule-making processes. She has also clerked for a federal judge and served as general counsel for the Jewish Council for Child Care. She is currently the only attorney on the Board of Correction.
On her first day as a board member, she voted to implement the state’s “Raise the Age” law, which prevents people under 18 from being charged in criminal court as adults, and to reopen the Horizon Secure Detention Facility for children – ending child detention on Rikers. More recently, insiders have credited Sherman with leading the Board of Correction to file a lawsuit against the DOC for revoking its remote access to DOC video databases.
That lawsuit followed DOC’s decision to revoke the Board of Correction’s access to video footage from jails on Rikers Island earlier this year. In August, the Board of Correction sued DOC on the grounds that the DOC’s actions in revoking BOC’s video access were “irrational,” “capricious” and “arbitrary.” The board accused the DOC of violating the New York City charter, which explicitly gives the board the right to “the inspection of all books, records, documents, and papers of the department.”
Board of Correction appointments
From its founding in 1957 until 1977, the mayor appointed all members of the Board of Correction, an independent oversight agency that monitors the conditions in city jails.
In 1977, the Board of Correction’s charter was amended to change the appointment process in order to curb mayoral control of the board. The move to change the charter followed a period of violent riots and murders in city jails, including the lynching of fifteen Black and Latino men and the hanging of Young Lords Puerto Rican activist Julio Roldan. The unrest in the city jails system prompted discussions about reform, which ultimately wrested control of the Board of Correction away from the mayor. Under the new charter, the mayor could only appoint three of the nine board members, with another three appointed by the City Council and the final three appointed (jointly) by the presiding justices of the First and Second Judicial Departments of the state court system’s Appellate Division.
The charter gives the mayor an administrative role in the justices’ appointments, since state law prohibits judges from appointing people from political offices. From 1977 until Mayor de Blasio took office in 2014, the justices had total autonomy in selecting nominees – a fact confirmed by a series of historical documents that a staff member at the Board of Correction saved from being discarded in 2015. Under de Blasio, though, the mayor began to insert himself directly in the justices’ selection process.
Sources at the Board of Correction said that this pattern of mayoral interference with board appointments has continued in the Adams administration, with the mayor’s office personally recommending individuals for the justices to appoint. Last year, the justices appointed two members to the Board of Correction: Jacqueline Pitts and Joseph Ramos, both of whom are former DOC correction officers. Chalfen, the court system spokesperson, confirmed that the mayor had influenced the justices’ selection of those two board members. “These board members were suggested and recommended by the mayor’s office, as these appointments are made in joint nomination with the mayor,” he told City & State.
This arrangement gave the mayor disproportionate influence over the Board of Correction, allowing him to directly nominate three of the nine members himself and then “jointly” nominate three more members along with the presiding justices. This was not the intent of the 1977 reform to the appointments process, which was aimed at limiting the mayor’s power over the Board of Correction. “The appointments were intended to be Judiciary appointments – not Mayoral appointments," said former Board of Correction executive director John Brickman, who was instrumental in suggesting the 1977 reform that changed the board’s appointment process.
The jockeying over Board of Correction appointments came to a head in the months before Sherman’s term was set to expire on Oct. 23. Sources close to City Hall told City & State that the mayor’s office sent a shortlist of names of potential replacements for Sherman to the presiding justices in early September. Meanwhile, the fate of the Board of Correction’s lawsuit against DOC hung in the balance. In August, City & State reported that some within the Board of Correction feared that Sherman would be replaced by a new appointee opposed to pursuing the lawsuit, which could tip the balance of power and allow a majority of the board’s nine members to vote to end the court action.
Even as the mayor’s office suggested replacements for Sherman, though, influential voices were pushing to keep Sherman on the board. For months, politicians, legal organizations and other people concerned with the board’s autonomy have lobbied the justices behind-the-scenes to reappoint Sherman, a source close to the Second Judicial Department told City & State. According to individual attorneys involved in the informal lobbying campaign, members of the New York City Bar Association advocated strongly for Sherman’s reappointment, and Sherman was invited to speak to the bar association’s Committee on Corrections and Reentry.
The bar association did not officially take a position on the board appointment. “If any individual, who may be a City Bar member, spoke to court representatives, they did not do so in their capacity as a City Bar member and their actions did not represent the position of the City Bar,” said Alexis Flyer, co-chair of the bar association’s Committee on Corrections and Reentry. Flyer added that the committee “supports the Board of Correction’s independent role in promoting the safety and dignity of individuals incarcerated in City facilities, particularly during this time of heightened violence and chaos.”
In the end, the lobbying campaign worked. On Tuesday, Chalfen, the court spokesperson, confirmed to City & State that the presiding justices had formally nominated Sherman for reappointment to the board.
Board of Correction v. Department of Correction
Coincidentally, the DOC suddenly agreed to settle the Board of Correction’s lawsuit on Sept. 27, on the eve of a court hearing in the case and around the time that the justices submitted their nomination to reappoint Sherman to the board.
On Sept. 28, the Board of Correction posted a statement announcing the settlement: “The agreement successfully restores the Board’s historic 24/7 unfettered access to DOC’s video footage systems. The agreement is subject to Board member approval at its upcoming October 17, 2023 public meeting. This agreement confirms the Board’s authority as DOC’s independent oversight agency and reinstates a crucial oversight tool.” Following the board’s announcement, a DOC spokesperson emailed City & State a statement confirming the settlement: “The Department has settled the litigation with the Board of Correction and is working to restore video access early next week.”
The Board of Correction formally voted to approve the settlement agreement during an executive session at its monthly meeting on Tuesday. The settlement contains a memorandum of understanding between the board and DOC, which guarantees that the board will have 24-hour remote access to all video footage from DOC facilities, with the exception of hand-held video footage, which DOC will need to periodically upload to a server that the board’s staff will have access to.
DOC representatives had been scheduled to speak during Tuesday’s Board of Correction meeting but failed to show up. During the meeting, board chair Dwayne Sampson – a mayoral appointee – announced that the DOC had informed him that it would not be attending because it had to prepare for a City Council hearing later in the week. A Board of Correction member told City & State that there was no advance notice that DOC would not show. “Just to be clear no one, including Jasmine (Georges-Yilla, the Board of Correction executive director) knew DOC wasn’t coming,” they said.
Kelly Grace Price is an independent journalist and criminal justice reform advocate with decades of experience as a reporter, photographer and editor. She was briefly detained on Rikers Island in 2011 and, after having all charges dismissed, has advocated for increased transparency and policy changes within the Department of Correction and NYPD. Price is the founder of Close Rosies, which is focused on shuttering the Rose M. Singer Center, the all-female jail on Rikers Island.