Gary Heyward began working for the Department of Corrections for all the right reasons, but when his paycheck began to suffer due to child support, he had to do something to make ends meet. Although warned numerous times while in the academy and once again while actually working in the prison system, he still allowed himself to become a major part of the criminal activity occurring on Rikers Island.
Gary begins with the aftermath of him sitting in the bullpen during arraignment being treated with disdain by his ex-fellow Correction Officers. The other inmates are also tormenting him once his photo has been displayed on the television and the announcer relays the list of charges against him. When reality finally hits, Gary questions how he got to this point. The following pages outline the entire ordeal from his meager beginnings to his climactic downfall and beyond.
Corruption Officer: Perpetrator With A Badge is Gary Heyward’s account of his downward spiral from correction officer to convicted criminal. It’s a no hold barred, tell-all novel that leaves nothing to the imagination. Within its pages, we find out some of the reasons why corruption is so prevalent in the city’s jails. Gary exposes cover-ups, prostitution, contraband, drug smuggling and every other crooked operation available behind prison walls.
I was hooked on Corruption Officer from the beginning. It was hard for me to put it down as I was all enthralled in Gary’s fate on a day-to-day basis. The honesty depicted in Gary’s storytelling, accompanied by his clever blend of humor made the story flow effortlessly. There were many editing errors throughout the book, but nothing considerable enough to draw your attention away from the course of the storyline. This is definitely a must-read for everyone across the board.
I can’t wait for Gary’s follow-up novel, Copstitute, because I am not only hooked on Gary’s brand of storytelling, but I am also intrigued by his honest and thought-provoking accounts of corruption at Rikers Island.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: From Correction to Corruption at Rikers Island: In The Situation Room with Gary Heyward
Michelle: Gary, I would like to thank you for not only writing Corruption Officer, but also for taking the time to share your story with “The Situation Room”. Please tell us a little about yourself.
Gary: Thank you for considering me for “The Situation Room”. As far as information about me goes, I am a motivator, I have a sense of humor (as you can see in my writing), I am humble, but if need be very outspoken. After what I’ve been through it’s hard to embarrass me. I enjoy writing and speaking to people about anything but mostly about how to get employment after incarceration and the importance of staying out of jail.
Michelle: Reading about your relationship with your mother, how has this ordeal impacted your bond? Does she remain supportive?
Gary: My mother and I have a very strong bond even before this ordeal. That’s why the hardest part of the whole situation was telling her the truth that I had committed this crime. Even after that, throughout the whole time I was incarcerated she fought for me by writing letters to the governor, the jail and anybody that would listen. She did this because according to the law I was eligible for all kinds of early release programs, but the state decided not to give them to me. Now since I’ve been home she gets on my nerves LOL! No but seriously she supports me in what I do even the times when I doubted myself she told me that she always knew that I could bounce back from this. She’s my rock.
Michelle: How about your children? Now that you are home and that part of your life is behind you, have you made amends?
Gary: As far as my children go, I am still making amends in many ways. I have two kids a boy and a girl. My son has been more understanding towards my situation but it’s been a little battle with daughter. Me going to jail had a shocking effect on them because all they knew was that I was at work a lot and always preached to them about doing right and not messing with drugs and then bam! I am in the news for committing this crime. My daughter had the attitude when I first came home that “you went to jail, you can’t tell me what to do!” So it’s been an uphill battle but I am still being their father and not their friend. I know that when people go to jail they have to gain back that trust and relationship with their family that they lost.
Michelle: In your own words, what was the breaking point that made you get involved with the illegal activities at Rikers Island in the first place?
Gary: The breaking point for me was when I was stressed out about my outside life. Being a C.O. didn’t really stress me but divorce and child support did. At one point my pay was reduced dramatically then came the garnishments and other bills that I could not pay. That’s when I decided to hustle. You have to understand that a C.O. can hustle anytime that they get ready. The opportunity is always there in some shape or form. It’s just whether a C.O. wants to get involved or not. Believe me when I tell you its not going anywhere and its not going to stop.
Michelle: You speak candidly about your abuse of alcohol in the novel. Are you still a heavy drinker nowadays, or have you slowed down or stopped altogether?
Gary: I’ve slowed down with the drinking a lot. I’ve accomplished so much since I’ve been home that I don’t want anything to interfere with the path that I am on. So I barely do anything besides go to work and write. Since I’ve been home, I’ve managed to land another city job, be a juror on jury duty and start my own business. I am not going to lose everything again. I drank like that because the opportunity to drink in jail while I was working was always there.
Michelle: Do you think that your alcohol abuse was a factor in the decisions that you made, or is it just the opposite, the decisions that you made lead to your alcohol abuse?
Gary: I don’t think that alcohol played a role in my decision to hustle because even before I started I partied from Monday to Monday. I started selling drugs to inmates as a means to supplement my income when I was going through my problems. Drinking is just part of the job. It’s just that simple. Some officers didn’t participate, but a large majority did.
Michelle: Corruption Officer outlines how easy it was for correction officers to smuggle illegal substances and contraband into the jail. Do you believe that security has been beefed up at the prison as a result of this sting operation?
Gary: Security was beefed up after my incident momentarily because the corrections department knows that they can’t completely stop it, so why waste money and man power on it. Security will always be light when it comes to officers because of the oath that an officer takes to become one. On the basis of integrity, other officers feel that they can trust one another and that it’s disrespect to another officer to go all out and search them when they are entering the jail. The simple reason I was able to organize a smuggling operation was because they trusted me. Period.
Michelle: Several spokespeople for the Department of Corrections and the Correction Officer’s Benevolent Association have expressed their dissatisfaction with Corruption Officer. They not only stated that it has tarnished the reputation of correction officers as a whole, but are also questioning your credibility. How do you feel about their statements?
Gary: The statements from the department were as expected. That’s what correction officials have to say. It’s their job. They can’t openly admit that there is a serious problem on Rikers Island with trafficking underground contraband. As far as their image being tainted, I feel that it was like that way before I came along. I personally feel that it’s still a very good job as long as you go there, mind your business and just do your job. I am not trying to make light of what I did nor am I trying to glorify it but the fact remains that I did this and the things that I wrote about happened. I did not name names but if challenged I have documentation of the incidents in question. As an officer, you have to date and document anytime or anything that you’re involved in for your own personal record. Now using your documentation is another story depending if something is going to be covered up or not. It’s not hard for anybody to get a hold of records or newspaper clippings of incidents and then verify if in fact I was a part of these incidents. I’ve been gone since 2006 and over thirty officer have been caught and convicted for doing the same thing that I did. My credibility can be researched if necessary. All I am saying is if any official really doubts that these things I mention in my book are true, I really wish they had stood up in court and said that before I got sentenced.
Michelle: Your follow-up novel is titled Copstitute. Although the title speaks for itself, what is the book about?
Gary: My book, Copstitute: What Would You Do To Feed Your Kids, is about the three female officers that I had prostituting inside the jail. The story is based around one in particular that was, against correction rule, married to a well-known big time drug dealer. He gets life in prison and she prostitutes to upkeep and take care of their four children. I knew and interacted with these females. They’re my friends. One got fired for having a baby with an inmate and the other two got promoted to the rank of captain. I know that working as a C.O. is supposed to be a prestigious job to uphold, but what do you really think was going to happen when you mix a large amount of females and males together for long periods of time and add drinks and drugs? Some females did it to be sociable and some decided to get paid for their services. You have to realize that for a female, jail has every type of man that she may desire by the hundreds of thousands. Now you may say if you were an officer that you would never have sex with an inmate, but what are they besides that? …Men.
Michelle: To your knowledge, has the allegations of prostitution at Rikers Island been investigated? Has anyone been arrested and/or brought up on charges?
Gary: Officers have been bought up on charges and fired for a lot of sex related incidents on Rikers Island. One in the newspaper was when a female officer was caught on camera taking an inmate out of his cell to the bathroom at three in the morning. She was fired after she confessed that she made two hundred fifty dollars a week providing him with sexual favors. Another that happened in the Bronx courts, a male C.O. got fired for making a gay inmate perform oral sex on him. The inmate saved the sperm for evidence. So yes, officers get investigated and prosecuted all the time. Some you hear about some you don’t, but it goes down. There’s no stopping this type of activity.
Michelle: There were other correction officers, cooks and a nurse’s aide that were arrested along with you. Were any of the cases tied together, or did you all have separate operations going on at Rikers?
Gary: Every one of those cases was separate incidences. Everyone doing dirt by themselves. Drug smuggling on Rikers Island happens in many shapes and forms in every jail on the island. A couple of reasons are because it’s real easy to get it in if your trusted to work there, and it’s also very lucrative.
Michelle: You faced up to life in prison, but copped out to two years with one-year post-release supervision. How did you finagle that one since it is such a big drop in sentencing?
Gary: To be honest with you, when I read in the newspapers that me in particular was facing life in prison I was blown away! I knew that I had committed this crime and yes I deserved to be punished, but I felt that life in prison was extreme. I knew that the justice system was going to make an example out of me so that it would deter other officers from doing what I did, but I did not feel that I warranted “life”. I summed it up to the media making my story look crazy to sell newspapers. My lawyer told me that if they convict me of all the charges that they had against me and ran them consecutively that I would spend the rest of my life in jail. After all was said and done, they didn’t have enough evidence for a lot of the charges and could only convict me on two of them. So that’s how I received my two-year sentence. They did succeed in what they were set out to do because all who read about it, officers included, felt that I was going away for a long time and with that in mind it may have served as a deterrent.
Michelle: Ultimately, you were convicted of one count of bribe receiving in the 3rd degree and one count of Attempted Criminal sale of a controlled substance in the 3rd degree, but in Corruption Officer you outline so much more criminal activity than that. So the question remains, why did you decide to write about your circumstances in such an open and candid manner?
Gary: When I was sentenced and the realization came that I was really going to jail, I was real angry. At first at everybody—my ex-wife, child support, at the inmate that set me up and at the Corrections Department. I began to write angry too as if I was out for revenge. But then I sat down with a priest and he told me that my story was compelling and that it would have better use if it was used as a lesson for all. Everyone could benefit from my book—people who want to know about jail, youth who need to stay out of jail, correction officers who are doing what I did, correction officers who take advantage of their position not realizing that they don’t have to do the job that way and anyone who wants to be a C.O.—and get an inside look at what it’s really like. When I finished my book it was too many pages and my editor told me that I didn’t have to put everything in my first book. So I narrowed it down to what you read. Thus birthing Corruption Officer II, Copstitute and Corruption Officer III, Enter The Gangbanger, which is about some good friends of mine that are correction officer but choose to still stay in their gangs. I write nonfiction and I want the reader to walk with me when I talk, so that’s why I try not to spare any detail.
Michelle: Corruption Officer leaves only one thing up in the air, and that is the fate of your friend turned “cooperating” inmate, “Flocko”. Do you know what ever happened to him? Was he really transferred to another prison, or did he gain his freedom from the role he played in helping to bring you down?
Gary: When the news hit the jail via newspaper and television, the inmates in my housing area already knew who told on me because of the evidence that the internal affairs had on me. They knew exactly who it was and put out a P.O.S. (Pop On Site) on him. Meaning whoever sees him, no matter what gang affiliation you were with, you kill him on site. So the department moved him to another jail quickly. I still have several C.O. friends that still work over there and in 2010 one of them called me to let me know that he saw “Flocko” still locked up. He told me that he questioned him and “Flocko” said that they didn’t honor whatever agreement they made with him in return for him cooperating with them. To me. I was wrong so whatever came behind it didn’t matter. Meaning did “Flocko” do me wrong? Yes. Did I put myself in the position for him to do me wrong first and foremost? Yes. Is he getting what he deserves for getting me caught? I don’t know, but I have his address and I am mailing him a copy of my book…
Michelle: After everything that you have experienced, what is the one thing you hope people come away with after reading Corruption Officer? What is your underlying message?
Gary: The main message or should I say messages that I want people to get from my book is “DON’T GO TO JAIL!” A lot of people really don’t know what happens in jail, so I want them to be enlightened and have the feeling of valuing their freedom and not take on the attitude that I could handle jail if I had to go. Even for the ones who have experienced jail, I want them to take from my book that jail is not the place to be. It’s not a revolving door and my life is worth more than that. Also that they can bounce back from jail despite what society may think or feel. It’s not over because you went to jail.
Michelle: Lastly, what have you learned from being incarcerated and what advice would you give to anyone following in your earlier path?
Gary:I’ve learned a lot from my incarceration. I’ve learned that no one really can say what they will or won’t do if put in desperate situations. I grew up in Harlem, New York City during the crack era. I went to war as a U.S. Marine in 90’ and 91’. I’ve been a Corrections Officer for ten years at Rikers Island, one of the most notorious jails in the world. So its safe to say that I have witnessed a lot in my life here and abroad. Those experiences have made me mentally tough, but being in jail will break all of that down as if you haven’t experienced anything. So I just want to say this first to the C.O.’s that are still being corrupt “it really is not worth it”. You don’t have to inflict your own justice on people in order to be successful at that job. I know that it sounds corny or matter of factly, but think about it, they are still rocking over there so corny or not it needs to be said. I would like people to read my book on how I bumped my head and take heed and not do what I did. Be it C.O. or ordinary Joe, don’t do anything that’s going to land you in jail because despite what you may have heard from people that have been there, everyone’s experience isn’t the same but all of their experiences are bad.
Drug addicts in the Big Apple are always welcome to join New York substance abuse help programs should they decide to quit drugs.
Author Gary Heyward is Owner and Ceo of Heyward Publishing. He was born and raised in Harlem New York City’s Polo Grounds projects. At the young age of nineteen, he joined the United States Marines and became a decorated war veteran by serving in Desert Storm/Desert Shield operation in 1990-1991. After receiving an honorable discharge, he became a New York City corrections officer working ten years in the notorious city jail called Rikers Island. In May of 2006, Gary was arrested and convicted for selling drugs throughout the jail. During his incarceration he developed the passion for writing and penned the first out of three books called Correction Officer. The book is an autobiography of his life as a corrections officer and Gary hopes that he can use his years of prison experience to enlighten officers and help prevent people from going to jail. At the current time, Gary still resides in Harlem and has obtained another city job, started his own business, and also served as a juror on jury duty. He is determined not to let a prison sentence define him.