Above left: Standing with his administration's criminal justice team March 11. 2014, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio introduces newly-appointed Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte, second from left. Others from left are Probation Commissioner Ana Bermúdez, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton: Elizabeth Glazer, head of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and Vincent Schiraldi, senior advisor to that office.
Above right: Mayor listens as Commissioner Ponte comments on his appointment.
Below, throughout the page: Thumbnail image boxes for Commissioners and Acting Commissioners since 1896.
Among four key criminal justice appointments to his administration that Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday, March 11, 2014 was Joseph Ponte whom he named as Commissioner of the Department of Correction.
The others named with Ponte were Ana Bermúdez to lead the Department of Probation, Elizabeth Glazer to head the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Vincent Schiraldi to serve as Senior Advisor to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice
"Together, these appointees will bring about a cohesive, community-focused criminal justice policy for the City of New York."
In his 40-year corrections career, Joseph Ponte has earned a national reputation as a successful reformer, the mayor's office said.
Currently the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections, Ponte was described as having "a broad range of experience that offers a unique perspective and deep understanding of corrections system management."
Ponte has served as a correctional officer, a warden, and as director and commissioner of numerous corrections systems around the country, and, the mayor's office said, "understands the challenges each member of the corrections community faces."
As Commissioner of the Maine DOC, Ponte was credited with instituting reforms that reduced the use of solitary confinement by two-thirds, and completely eliminated the use of disciplinary segregation for people identified as mentally ill.
"He will be charged with overhauling the city’s corrections system: ending the overuse of solitary confinement, curtailing officers’ use of excessive force, and improving resources to handle the mentally ill, " the appointment announcement read.
The incoming Department of Correction Commissioner, Joseph Ponte declared:
"Every resident of this city deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. From schools to hospitals to prisons, we cannot let our commitment to safety and fair resources falter for a single member of our society.
"We need to end the culture of excessive solitary confinement and unnecessary force, and bring a new mentality of respect and safety to our wardens, officers and inmates alike."
The mayor's office included with the appointments announcement brief bio notes about each of the four appointees, including the new Correction Commissioner.
"A native of Massachusetts, Joseph Ponte has more than 40 years of experience working in the corrections field. During his distinguished career in corrections, Ponte has served as a correctional officer, a warden, and as director and commissioner of corrections systems.
"Ponte comes to New York City from Maine, where, since 2011, he served as Commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections. As Commissioner of the Maine DOC, Ponte has instituted reforms that reduced the use of solitary confinement by two-thirds and reduced both officers' use of force and the number of violent incidents.
"Ponte has also served as Director of the jail in Shelby County, Tennessee (which includes Memphis), where he led one of the largest jails in the country – helping transform the violence-prone jail while supporting its staff – and eventually led the jail successfully through accreditation by the American Correctional Association. Additionally, Ponte has served as a warden in jails and prisons in Nevada, Florida, Tennessee, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
"Ponte, a Marine Corps veteran (1965-1969), holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Bridgewater State College."
TO ACTING COMMISSIONER CRANSTON
For most of the time thereafter, NYC DOC's First Deputy Commissioner Marc Cranston functioned as Acting Commissioner, a role extended to the effective date of Ponte's appointment, reported to be April 7, 2014.
The mayor expressed appreciation for Cranston's performance in that capacity and announced that the First Deputy Commissioner would continue to serve the Department in the de Blasio administration.
On the effective date of Ponte's appointment, the new Correction Commissioner becomes the 34th or the 35th or the 42nd or the 43rd person to be recognized and function as such since the NYC Department of Correction began operating as a separate agency Jan. 1, 1896.
It all depends how the count is done. If all Acting Commissioners are excluded, even those who served months heading the agency, the number could be 34 persons upon whom the title NYC Correction Commissioner has been conferred. But it could also be 35 as the number of times that title has been conferred.
If as this web site believes and practices, the count ought rightly include all those who fully managed DOC as Acting Commissioners when a vacancy existed in the Commissioner post, then the number increases by eight (8) to 42 if Lantry's tenures are considered a single Commissionership. Or the number increases to 43 if his non-consecutive Commissionships are counted individually.
Prior to Jan. 1, 1896, NYC Correction had been part of a dual agency, the Department of Public Charities and Correction. The men and women whose names and thumbnail images appear on this page, their having served as NYC Correction Commissioners, reflect the diverse and rich history of the City and this Department. They include:
Lantry was the first to served as DOC Commissioner when New York became a five-borough City (1898). Lantry also has the distinction of being the only Commissioner to serve twice as head of DOC. He even served once as Fire Commissioner.
Others who saw service directing other NYC agencies include Benjamin Ward and Bernard B. Kerik, each of whom later also served as NYPD head; Katharine Bement Davis, who afterward led the City Parole Commission, and Catherine Abate, Michael P. Jacobson and Martin F. Horn, each of whom had headed Probation before coming to Correction.
Both Commissioners Frederick A. Wallis and Albert Williams served as NYPD Deputy Commissioners before heading DOC.
Some listed here served as Commissioners --
Among the eight Interim Commissioners, Seitchik served about two and a half weeks, Vierno and Hunter each served a little more than a month, Antonelli and D'Elia about two months plus, Mitchell about two and a half months, Cranston and Lanigan about three months total.
The most commissioners to serve in any one year has been three.
In 1933, Robert L. Tudor, William J. Cahill and Wilbur T. Wright headed DOC.
In 1990, James Hunter, George R. Vierno and Allyn Seilaff served.
By contrast, the commissioner serving the most years was Anna M. Kross.
She headed the agency about a dozen years -- from the start of 1954 through early 1966.
Mrs. Kross wasn't; she was the second. The first was Katharine Bement Davis, Bedford Hills Reformatory superintendent appointed NYC DOC Commissioner in 1914 before women had the right to vote.
The DOC appointment of Dr. Davis -- she had a Ph. D in political economy from the University of Chicago, a first -- also made her the first woman to run any major agency of municipal government in NYC history and any city uniformed force in the country.
The fourth was Catherine M. Abate named to the DOC post in 1992. She had been Probation Commissioner.
The fifth was Dora Schriro. appointed Sept. 9, 2009. She had been Special Advisor to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Detention and Removal, and was the founding Director of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning for that department.
More details about each -- Commissioners Davis, Kross, McMickens, Abate and Schriro-- can be accessed by clicking the caption under their respective thumbnail photos above and below.
Use your browser's "back" button to return to this list page.
More portraits and biographical material links will be added as they emerge from continued research.
All points bulletin: Be on the lookout for individual head-and-shoulders photos of five Commissioners:
ACKNOWLEDGMENT: We gratefully acknowledge NYC DOC's permission to post here material used in creating the original version of the NYC DOC Commissioners list posted on NYC LINK.-- Thomas McCarthy, NYCHS webmaster