MANHATTAN (PIX11) — A City Council committee held an oversight hearing Tuesday to learn more about the Department of Correction’s efforts to reform conditions on Rikers Island.
The hearing came the 19th custody-related death of the year. As the hearing was held, people rallied outside, calling for Rikers to close down.
DOC Commissioner Louis Molina said a violence reduction plan, increased staffing and tactical searches are getting results at the jail. Five thousand weapons were recovered during tactical searches this year from January to November, he said.
Slashings and stabbings fell by 85% at one of their facilities this November compared to last November, Molina said. At the George R. Vierno Center, which houses the most violent individuals, slashings and stabbings fell by 50%.
In June, a federal manager called for an action plan to assess if the city should maintain control of the jail. A judge ruled last month that City Hall could maintain control.
“The conditions in the jail remain dangerously unsafe and the Monitoring Team remains gravely concerned about the alarming number of in-custody deaths, violence among people in custody, lack of an effective restrictive housing model, and various facets of the Department’s use of force practices and operational practices,” the federal monitor’s latest report stated.
Molina shared more details about what the DOC is up to.
“We are working to design and implement a restrictive housing plan to manage incarcerated individuals who have engaged in serious acts of violence and pose a heightened security risk to the safety of others in custody and staff,” Molina said. “As I have testified before, the response can not be solitary confinement.”
The commissioner said if nothing changes, the jail population could reach 7000 by 2024.
Just ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, a number of families and community members including the Public Advocate called for Rikers to close. The matter goes before a federal judge again on April 27,2023.