Categories: National

New York mayor defends efforts ‘to fix’ Rikers as lawmakers demand immediate shutdown

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday defended his administration’s efforts to “try to fix” New York’s infamous Rikers Island jail, where at least nine inmates have died this year, as state legislators and others toured the troubled complex, demanding its immediate shutdown.

Among the biggest challenges is a spike in numerous sick calls by corrections officers during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in severe staffing shortages in the notoriously violent jail, said the mayor. De Blasio in 2017 proposed closing Rikers within 10 years and opening smaller jails in the city’s boroughs.

Rikers typically houses defendants awaiting criminal trial.

“We have invested a huge amount to try to fix that situation – even in a place we shouldn’t be in any more,” de Blasio said, noting talks were underway with the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the union representing thousands of officers at Rikers.

But union spokesman Michael Skelly blamed de Blasio for what he said was “atrocious, inhumane, deplorable conditions” that have made officers sick.

“He’s refused to hire corrections officers for three years. So we now have less than 7,600 corrections officers, down from 9,000 two years ago. We have an inmate population that has doubled in one year: 3,400 a year ago to almost 6,000 today, while not hiring a single correction officer,” Skelly said.

As de Blasio spoke to reporters, a group of 14 elected officials toured the complex on the 400-acre (160-hectare) island in the East River, connected by bridge to the borough of Queens.

The visit was welcomed by defendant advocates as helping to focus a spotlight on their demands for an immediate shutdown of the complex.

“To stave off further loss of life, City Hall must work with local prosecutors and the State to immediately decarcerate,” said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal defense practice at The Legal Aid Society.

The state legislators visited Rikers just two days ahead of a New York City Council hearing on city jails set for Wednesday, according to the council’s website.

The council in 2019 approved an $8.7 billion package to close Rikers and three other jails.

Some buildings on Rikers already have been closed and the city is working toward “an entirely new corrections system with community-based jails. Those are on the way,” de Blasio said.


(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Dan Grebler)

FILE PHOTO: The Rikers Island Prison complex is seen from an airplane in the Queens borough of New York City, New York
Metro US

Published by
Metro US

Recent Posts

Sarah Palin’s positive COVID test delays NY Times defamation trial

By Jonathan Stempel NEW YORK - Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican U.S. vice presidential candidate…

36 mins ago

FanDuel promo delivers $1K risk-free bet, 30-1 odds for NFL Conference Championship Games

A huge sports week that caps off with a pair of NFL Conference Championship Games…

1 hour ago

Instagram star Chiara Ferragni seeks investor to expand abroad

Italian Instagram star Chiara Ferragni has mandated BNP Paribas to find a new investor to…

1 hour ago

Sony Music says it acquired Bob Dylan’s catalog of recorded music

Sony Music Entertainment said on Monday it has acquired Bob Dylan's catalog of recorded music,…

1 hour ago

Short sellers up about $114 billion in 2022 amid U.S. market slide -S3 Partners

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Amid the U.S. stock market's slide to start the year, short…

1 hour ago

U.S. COVID peak may be over but not the pain as deaths rise

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Even as COVID-19 cases drop and hospitalizations show signs of plateauing…

2 hours ago