Rikers Island crisis: Mayor unveils emergency relief plan to tackle overcrowding, staff issues

Regional News

Rikers Island jail complex

NEW YORK — Amid the ongoing overcrowding, violence and staffing issues at the Rikers Island jail facility, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan Tuesday to help fix the issues.

The mayor said the plan would use emergency orders to make “very intense changes in the situation.”

The NYPD would also assist correction officers and take on discrete functions to help alleviate pressure off of the Department of Correction.

“We need to do some things very, very differently,” de Blasio said.

Components of the Emergency Rikers Relief Plan include:

  • Emergency contracting
  • Shift court staffing
  • Accountability for AWOL DOC staff
  • Expand Medical Evaluation capacity
  • Speed up intake to reduce crowding

Under the plan, correction officers who fail to show up to work without explanation will be issued a 30-day suspension without pay, according to the mayor.

The announcement came after lawmakers toured the facility, observing conditions to be “inhumane” and “torturous.” 

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams told PIX11 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.

Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani called for Gov. Kathy Hochul to immediately sign and implement the Less is More bill, which could put 1,000 detainees up for release. 

The bill would speed up State transfers, speed up court cases and use supervised release for non-violent offenders.

During the visit, he spoke to an inmate who attempted suicide on the same day as detainee Esias Johnson’s death.

“He chose to attempt death over living a life of life in this facility,” Mamdani said.

Several officials also witnessed an attempted suicide inside Rikers during the tour.

Lawmakers described raw sewage in Rikers. They said inmates aren’t getting enough food or access to medical care.

Congressman Jamaal Bowman said inmates, who need the support they can get, should be provided with mental health resources.

Mayor 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.

De Blasio also called for the Less is More bill to be passed.

“We want to make sure the system is working,” he said.

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