Rikers Island has been dubbed “Horror Island” by local leaders who visited the facility Monday to see the conditions inside the jail.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city has poured money into Rikers to try and fix the problem to no end.
Rikers Island is not expected to shut down for another six years, but Congressman Jamaal Bowman said the city cannot wait until then to address the issues at the jail he witnessed.
Despite having the city investing into Rikers, Bowman said funding is a “complex situation” as hundreds of employees are calling out on a daily basis. There is also a lack of health care resources, food distribution and space.
“All these things are converging at the same time,” he said.
The congressman referenced one inmate who was mute and “traumatized” after being forced into a small, shower-sized jail cell.
He also said there is a mindset that goes into the infrastructure designed to care for the incarcerated people, contributing to the inhumane conditions.
There has also been no mental health assistance for the inmates, who need the support they can get.
People have made calls for a change in Rikers for years, but what can be done in the immediate future?
Bowman discussed the Less is More Act, which would look into decarcerating much of Rikers and could “decrease the numbers by hundreds.”
It has since been passed in the Assembly and State House and is now at the governor’s desk, Bowman said.
There are people at the facility who are there due to technical parole violations who Bowman believes “should not be in there” and to be de-carcerated as soon as possible. In addition, he said the city should provide spaces for those who can’t afford bail rather than throw them into Rikers.
De Blasio has defended efforts to improve conditions at Rikers. He advocated a since-delayed plan to shut the facility and move to community-based jails.
The congressman also discussed how his region is helping residents who continue to recover from Ida.
“A lot has already been done,” Bowman said, but reminded residents to document every dollar spent, take as many pictures as possible and file an insurance claim.
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