Pressure mounts over crisis at Rikers; mayor to visit next week

Local News

NEW YORK — The federal monitor overseeing Rikers Island said outside intervention is needed to oversee security for the city’s troubled jail complex.

In a letter to the judge before an emergency hearing into conditions at the facility, the monitor Steve Martin said Rikers was suffering a crisis of leadership, with hazardous conditions and a lack of staff threatening everyone’s safety.

On the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC Radio, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he will tour Rikers next week and defended why it has taken so long.

The mayor cited a faster intake process and a list of sanctions and incentives to get people back to work at the jail complex.

The mayor has now said that he feels that work is moving forward and it’s time to go to Rikers himself.

However, Martin told the judge that the city has made no significant progress to alleviate conditions at Rikers since his last report, writing “The city’s and department’s plans have a significant void. They do not address the ubiquitous mismanagement and prevalent security failures within the jails.”

He further wrote, “Stated bluntly the city’s and the department’s plans are not sufficient to address the imminent risk of harm to people in custody and staff flowing from poor operations of the jails.”

He also expressed a lack of confidence that the Department of Correction is capable of providing safe conditions at the jail. 

Republican Councilman Joe Borelli made a surprise visit to Rikers on Thursday.

In a letter to the president and attorney general, eight Democratic members of New York’s Congressional delegation called on the Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation into the conditions of confinement of detainees.

They also want the Biden Administration to provide federal intervention to stabilize a situation that has resulted in 12 deaths this year, Congressman Ritchie Torres was one of the signees, calling it a humanitarian crisis.

“If Rikers Island was a country, it would be considered a failed state,” he said. “And that’s no exaggeration.” 

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