NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York City Councilmember Bob Holden changed his tone about the state of Rikers Island.

“It was absolute mayhem–flooded jail cells without locks, correction officers overwhelmed, and it was a nightmare,” said Holden on his last visit to Rikers Island in September 2021.

On Tuesday, after touring the facility with the Bipartisan Common-Sense Caucus, they agree that there had been improvements at the facility since the Adams administration took over, appointing a new commissioner to run New York City’s Department of Correction.

“So now this dilapidated infrastructure there that was vulnerable, they were being converted into weapons…now that’s not happening any more thanks to the physical improvements to the plant,” said Councilmember David Carr.

For decades, activists have called for the closure of Rikers Island, citing inhumane conditions and treatment of inmates.

Several inmates have died while being detained there, including seven so far this year, according to advocates for those who are incarcerated. A federal monitor recently released a report on how safety can be improved. The Adams administration and the Bipartisan Common-Sense Caucus said the solution was to invest in the infrastructure and youth programs at Rikers instead of shutting it down.

“This facility is filled with 6200 of the most violent criminals in the city of New York. Our corrections officers are doing the very, very best that they can,” said Councilmember Vickie Paladino.

They oppose the federal government’s plan to appoint a receiver to run the facility. 

“To appoint a federal receiver which the people will pay millions of dollars for is an attack on our wallet and nothing more. Having someone from Oklahoma tell New Yorkers what to do, I mean, that’s just incompetence,” said Councilmember Inna Vernikov.

But Chivona Newsome, the co-founder of Black Opportunities, said the oversight is needed to ensure the humane treatment of the inmates… held here to serve short sentences or while they await a decision on their pending court cases.

“Why don’t we want transparency? What is Rikers Island hiding that NYC residents and this country can’t know what’s up, can’t go know what’s going on?” asked Newsome.