Ronald Whitfield, First Vice-President of the Correction Captains’ Association

Photo: Jake Chessum

What do you do?
I’m second-in-command of the union for the whole New York City Department of Corrections—Rikers, the court facilities, the prison hospitals.

Sounds like a tough job.
It’s just being able to communicate with individuals. There are various personalities in the inmate population, let’s just say. If you’re going to prison in New York, which one should you hope for? No prison.

Do you think it was fair to send Lil’ Kim to a federal jail, when Martha Stewart, who was also convicted for perjury, did her time in minimum-security?
I can’t comment on federal prisons, but I always say that there’s white-collar crime and then there’s crime. In Lil’ Kim’s case, you’re talking about trying to take someone’s life, so her facility might be a little harsher than the one Martha was in.

How would you describe your style?
Mature conservative. A little bit of the old, a little bit of the new. My family originated in the South, but I’m from Harlem, so that’s where I get some of my style. The hat is from a haberdashery by City Hall. The suit is from Portobello, and the shoes are Stacy Adams.

What do you think of prison style?
Being 60 years old, I don’t really believe in the fashion of having the baggy pants hanging down. I don’t think it’s appropriate to show the underwear. We have female wardens—it’s disrespectful.

Do you like the crime shows on TV?
Definitely CSI, the original, and I’m partial to Law & Order.

How about Oz?
When it first came on, I watched it, but then I stopped because I see the real thing just about every day. It’s a very realistic show. What everybody needs to know is that jail is a city within a city. It has its own laws. You will have people who rob or mug their fellow inmates. Tempers are short. People get in altercations—physical altercations. Everything that happens outside happens inside too.

Ronald Whitfield, First Vice-President of the Cor […]