Outside of City Hall, advocates rallied Wednesday, calling on leaders to act swiftly in rectifying the intensifying crisis at Rikers Island — namely reducing the jail’s population.
Ten people have died at Rikers this year; advocates have called it a humanitarian crisis.
Both the commissioner of the department of correction and the city’s first deputy mayor were grilled on the crisis, including the chaotic and violent conditions, double and triple shifts for correction staffers with no food or breaks, and an employment shortage blamed on sick calls.
On Tuesday, the mayor announced an emergency plan to supplement DOC employees at Rikers with NYPD officers; he also announced plans to penalize correction officers who go AWOL or call out sick without due reason.
The move angered the correction officer’s union.
Lawmakers toured the jail Monday and described “horrific” conditions inside. Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani called for Gov. Kathy Hochul to immediately sign and implement the Less is More bill, which could put 1,000 detainees up for release. During the visit, he spoke to an inmate who attempted suicide on the same day as detainee Esias Johnson’s death.
“He chose to attempt death over living a life of life in this facility,” Mamdani said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday even though Rikers Island is a city-run facility, the problems at the much-maligned Queens jail facility could rise to the level of state intervention.
“Its very volatile,” Hochul said. “I’m very disturbed by what’s going on there…I understand it’s a city operation, but we also want to make sure that we leave no stone unturned to find out what we can do to help this situation.”