The Correction Department is handing out thousands of knockoff Nintendo Game Boys to jail inmates so they can entertain themselves playing Tetris and Donkey Kong — while guards say what they really need are more face masks and manpower, The Post has learned.
The city has purchased some 5,500 of the handheld gaming devices, which they will distribute to the 3,800 inmates who are still on Rikers Island and other city jails in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The devices were bought for $15 each from Finesse Creations Incorporated — for a total of $82,500 — and were purchased by the city, a Correction Department spokesman said.
“Too bad they couldn’t have enough masks available to prevent 1,000 correction officers from getting COVID and six dying from it,” complained one *correction *source.
The source noted that the *devices come in gang colors — Bloods red, Latin Kings yellow and Crips blue.
“Why this? Why now?” the source raged.
“Why not address safety issues related to COVID instead of entertainment enhancements for *criminals?”
The source added, “As even the mayor would say, this is yet another dumb managerial mistake.”
A Correction spokesman said the gaming devices are meant as an “adjustment” to jail programming, given that inmates are stuck in their cells and can’t get visitors, measures designed to keep the coronavirus from spreading.
“We have adjusted our normal programming with respect to social distancing restrictions and suspended visitations,” said spokesman Peter Thorne.
“The safety and health of people in our facilities always comes first, which is why we have been distributing ample PPE to staff and detainees alike and will do so for the duration of the pandemic.”
In December, The Post exposed how inmates were being given free transit passes and $50 in debit cards as parting gifts when they were released from Rikers.
The number of inmates in the city has plummeted as arrests and prosecutions decline and early *releases skyrocket into the *thousands.
Jail workers, meanwhile, had been forced to work in a “cesspool of illness,” the city correction unions have complained in recent lawsuits.
The jails are plagued by shortages of staffing, coronavirus testing, masks and other personal protection equipment, they said.