New York Mayor Addresses Rising Rikers Island Chaos

By CN Staff

NEW YORK—A growing crisis on the Rikers Island correctional center includes unstaffed areas, endless quarantines and a decline in general services for inmates, according to reports in the New York Post, New York Daily News and other media outlets.

Among the reported maelstrom of out-of-control chaos has been rampant vandalism, dozens of unmanned security posts and gang-related violence.

The federal monitor overseeing Rikers issued a report Tuesday, according to the Daily News, which confirmed the deteriorating setting—though correction unions insist it’s a result of low staffing and the DOC has pointed to staffing shortages due to officers calling in sick or otherwise not appearing for work.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged the ongoing problems addressing the media Wednesday, spotlighting the outmoded conditions and serious issues—and commenting that shuttering the facility and forging a new correctional dynamic were among the long-term solutions.

“This is an 80-plus year-old facility that does not make sense anymore. It is based on a punitive negative dynamic, when what we need is a dynamic focused on how we redeem people, turn their lives around, make them positive members of society again,” he stated during the media address. “We need to get out of Rikers and have a whole new approach and we’re going to. Second, there are real problems…These are serious problems that need to be addressed. But I remember in the months before I took office in 2014 reporting on horrendous problems that had to be addressed at Rikers. It’s a tough environment. Again, it’s outmoded, the whole culture of the Department of Correction needs a lot of change.”

The mayor also remarked that the fallout of COVID and the bouncing back of Rikers’ inmate populace have contributed to the current environment; but he expressed hope that the court systems returning to full functioning can only help.

“What is clear is the court system also wasn’t functioning a year ago. So, we were seeing all sorts of situations that would have normally led to someone ending up in Rikers as part of a functioning criminal justice system that wasn’t happening. That is now happening again, particularly for violent offenses and that’s necessary,” stated de Blasio. “And we’re seeing more and more folks leaving Rikers if they have to go upstate to prison, being sent there. Again, that was jammed up for a while, that starting to happen again. So, I think we are fairly along in terms of restoring some normalcy. But we still have a ways to go and we still need the court system to really get to full strength so we can get that appropriate flow going.”

In 2019, the New York City Council voted to close Rikers Island by 2026, with a plan made for smaller, borough-based jails to replace the huge complex.