A number ofrecent deaths have been identified by questions about the famous New York Penitentiary. Here are some answers.
The famous The Rikers Island prison complex has long been renowned for its brutal conditions, but in recent months the situation inside has spiraled out of control.
Ten people incarcerated in Rikers have died this year, at least four by suicide - the highest number of deaths in prison in years. Gangs and other inmates bring other incarcerated people to and from their dormitories. Relatives of those imprisoned there fear for the lives of their loved ones.
"My child can go to court " said Penny Wilkinson, thea mother of 25-year-old Nicholas Caballero, detained on the island awaiting trial for assault and robbery. “I don't want to see my child die in prison.
The vast majority of those detained at Rikers have not been tried and are presumed innocent.
Here are the answers to some of the questions about the causes of problems in the facility:
When did the crisis start?
Rikers has long been characterized by dysfunction and violence, its openness in 1935 to the culture of brutality and corruption which led to a large-scale federal investigation into the establishment ten years ago.
But the contours ofcrisis were shaped by the coronavirus, which infected more than 2,200 employees of Correction department so far, which has resulted in a widespread staff shortage.
"It started during Covid and it got out of hand " said Alice Fontier, Executive Director of Neighborhood Defender Harlem Department, on staff issues.
With so many sick staff, conditions at Rikers deteriorated. This snowballed as additional correctional officers - who are granted unlimited sick leave who were only submittedrecently with significant restrictions - have started calling patients in unusually large numbers, or have simply stopped coming.
About a year after the start of the pandemic, a federal monitor noted , that "an extraordinarily large number of employees do not show up for work". At the same time, the prison population at Rikers was growing.
More than 1,500 people had been released to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, but the prison the population has finally passed prepandemic levels - and the rate of self-harm among those incarcerated began to increase sharply.
In the past month, the monitor discovered that the understaffing had compromised the safety of everyone on the island.
How could the understaffing alone have made things so much worse?
Prison officials reported that on average 2,000 officers were sick or unable to work a single day at certain points this summer. We do not know how many were really sick; until last month, prison officers simply had to provide a doctor's note within two days of an illness appeal.
The commission ner du Department of Corrections, Vincent Schiraldi, said in a hearing Wednesday that he suspected that some agents used sick days as "an unlimited vacation pool.
Their unavailability slowed down the basic functions of the Rikers, starting with the process admission, where people normally spend less than 24 hours receiving clothing, undergoing medical examinations and being assigned to housing units.
In recent months, those long hours have turned into days and even weeks, with people being held in units that do not have beds or enough cells.
Social distancing is next to impossible and people in prison are not receiving masks if they lose theirs or get them dirty, at a time when Covid-19 continues to affect them. Lack of staff has resulted in delays in the distribution of food, water and medicine. Many people also experienced delaysto receive emergency medical care and male health care tal, and go to court .
According to those who have visited the complex recently, some areas are covered in garbage and urine, and some detainees are held in tiny showers where there is barely enough room to sit. stand up.
Who died in Rikers and how?
The dead include Wilson Diaz-Guzman , 30, who hanged himself in his cell in January, and Javier Velasco, 30, who was found unconscious in March with a sheet wrapped around his neck. On August 10, Brandon Rodriguez, 25, was found hanged in a shower in a prison admission area and on August 30, Segundo Guallpa, 57, was found dead in what the Corrections Department described as suspected suicide.
It is not known whether the death of Tomas Carlo Camacho , 48, in March, was suicide. Mr. Camacho was found unconscious and kneeling, his head through a small opening in the cell door known as the handcuff slot.
At least five other people have died on Rikers Island this year: Thomas Braunson III , 35, Richard Blake , 45 Jose Mejia Martinez , 35 years old, Robert Jackson , 42 years old and, last week, Esias Johnson, 24. The causes of their deaths remain unknown.
Allen Chey King, 51, detained at Rikers, said he found Mr Johnson unconscious in a prison dormitory . . Mr Johnson had pleaded with staff for medical treatment in the two days before his death, Mr King said.
The guards tried to d 'help,' King said. , but it seemed that the clinic was supported by patients.
"He said he was in a lot of pain. His stomach was aching, ”King said. "He said he had to go to the clinic.
Who is responsible for the deteriorating conditions ?
Rikers is a municipal prison, but thepeople are sent there because they are accused of breaking state law. This means that any attempt to resolve the crisis there must occur at the delicate intersection of state and city politics.
A group of state lawmakers, city officials and public advocates held a press conference in Rikers on Monday and called for a list of actions to be taken by Governor Kathy Hochul, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York attorneys and judges, who are bound by state law but can use their discretion to affect the results for individual defendants.
Lawmakers described witnessing a humanitarian crisis during their visit to the facility, where they saw dozens of people without masks crammed into cells with overflowing toilets, unable to see their lawyers because theyhad not yet been reserved. In some reception units, people were held in showers and relieved themselves in plastic bags.
"It 'sa nightmare there- low, "State Senator Jabari Brisport said.
What can be done to make things right ?
Mr. de Blasio announced on Tuesday a plan designed to improve conditions at Rikers , which included hiring contractors to expedite repairs and provide medical attention to service personnel. He also said that correctional officers who fail to show up for work will be suspended without pay.
The mayor has set himself a goal of speed up the admission process forpeople in 24 hours or less, and announced plans to send police to staff the court buildings, freeing up other correctional officers to help Rikers.
Several of the people who visited Rikers this week said the mayor's plan was inadequate and would do nothing to improve conditions immediately. A union representing the city's prison officers, which has urged that the city has hired thousands of additional staff, called on the mayor to step down.
Lawmakers have asked Mr de Blasio to use his powers to allow the early release of some incarcerated people, as he did last spring. And they asked the mayor to visit Rikers, which he hasn't done since June 2017.
Mr. de Blasio was reluctant to authorize the releaseanticipated ion of more incarcerated people, and it has denied a report that he was considering the release of some 180 people. The New York City Police Commissioner has expressed strong opposition to any early release.
Lawmakers have also called on Ms Hochul to sign the Less is law More, a parole reform bill. which would prevent those accused of violating parole from being automatically detained in prisons, among others.
Tuesday, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan District Attorney, and Alvin Bragg, his likely successor, also urges Ms. Hochul to sign the invoice
Ms. Hochul said she was "concerned " about the conditions in the city's prisons and that she would review the bill.
Lawmakers and lawyers who visited Rikers on Monday also called on prosecutors and judges to stop sending people there while conditions remain unsafe, in part by ending the use of the bond in cash.
"Too many prosecutors and district attorneys across New York City condemn working-class New Yorkers to the possibility of dead, ”said MP Zohran Mamdani.