NEW YORK — Decarceration advocates and correction officers alike have blasted conditions in the Rikers Island jail facility, where nine inmates have died this year.
Lawmakers and officials toured the jail Monday and described the “horrific” conditions inside.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams was part of the group and shared the “shocking” experience with the PIX11 Morning News on Tuesday.
“It is not safe in there for anyone, on both sides of those bars,” Williams said. “Everybody is unsafe. It is dysfunction.”
Williams called on both Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop whatever they were doing and visit the jail complex to see the conditions for themselves.
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.
“There was not enough people there to even staff,” the public advocate said, adding that there were also “people who were living in filth.”
Williams said there were correction officers who had been there for days, working not just triple shifts, but quadruple shifts, sometimes without any breaks.
“This is a situation that is ripe for disaster,” Williams warned.
Correction Officers Benevolent Association members have protested over the conditions and staffing issues. COBA filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Correction in Queens Supreme Court in July, calling conditions for officers at DOC facilities nothing short of a human rights emergency requiring immediate attention.
Union President Benny Boscio lambasted de Blasio, who he said hasn’t visited Rikers in four years. He agreed inmates weren’t getting what they needed, but said that comes down to “eight years of neglect.”
According to Boscio, a correction officer hasn’t been hired in three years even though more than 1,000 officers have resigned since 2019 on top of officers retiring.
In response to the criticism, de Blasio on Tuesday morning went a step further and announced a series of executive orders aimed at providing some relief at the jail complex, including assistance from the NYPD, emergency contracting and speeding up intake to reduce crowding.