The mayor faces increasing calls to remedy the chaotic and violent conditions inside the city's sprawling prison complex of New York.
Mayor Bill de Blasio toured New York this summer, announcing the resumption of He visited a swimming pool in Brooklyn in bright beachwear. He attended a series of concerts in every borough. He rubbed shoulders with celebrities at the galafrom the Met on Monday.
But in recent days he has faced fierce criticism for not visiting Rikers Island, even as the notorious prison complex Ten people have died on Rikers this year, and staff shortages have led to a series of violent episodes and a chaotic living environment inside the prison, a the federal monitor declared this summer . As the prison has become less secure, there have been more and more calls for Mr de Blasio to visit the complex and move more aggressively to improve the dangerous conditions there.
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who has less than four months in office, has pledged to shut down Rikers in the coming years and has touted as a key part of its progressive heritage. But he could end up leaving many challenges for the next mayor to correct.
"There has been a flashback from this mayor on this issue," a said Tina Luongo, the lawyer in charge of criminal defense practice at the Legal Aid Society. "All he wants to brag about is his legacy to shut it down in six years. His legacy is here in what's going on on this island. And he has to live up to his responsibilities.
More than a dozen elected officials visited the prison on Monday and besieged the deplorable conditions that several of them declared in later news. conference amounted to a humanitarian crisis. They called Mr. de Blasio at grant the early release of some of those held there, a step the mayor has said he has no plans to take.
On Tuesday, Mr. de Blasio is expected to announce a new "Emergency Relief Plan for Rikers" to carry out repairs and relocate Department of Corrections staff court in Rikers, according to a city official. The mayor will threaten to suspend correctional officers who do not show up for work for 30 days without pay. Mr de Blasio will also call state officials and the system court to do more to help.
After visiting Rikers on Monday, Jumaane Williams, the New York City public attorney, said he expected to call the mayor, as well as Governor Kathy C. Hochul, to tell them what he saw. He said he createdwas sure that a catastrophe like the 1971 Attica prison revolt would not happen soon in Rikers.
"We were all in danger there -in ", he said. Image Jumaane Williams, the New York public attorney, said he was concerned that the conditions inside the prison might lead to a revolt. Credit ... Juan Arredondo for the Hfrance.fr
Mr. Williams said in an interview that the mayor "must use some of his powers of pardon " to get some people out of jail, that new correctional officers should be hired, and that correctional officers who have called in sick or not.are not shown to work for thousands of teams over the past year, had to return to their work.
In interviews, inmates , prison staff and medical staff said the situation at the prison complex was getting worse by the day.
Some units that were once secure by up to four correctional officers no longer have them, as nearly a third of the approximately 8,400 in uniform in the department staff are either sick or not showing up for work. Gangs and other inmates began to manage the comings and goings of dozens of people incarcerated in their dormitories, to put an end to the fights and to administer medical treatment.
Mounds of garbage in the hallways and stairs. Soap and cleaning products are often unavailable. Some units are paperless toilette; in others, the worms come out of the sewers. Many incarcerated people have not been out for months and spend their hours in dormitories with no programs or services. The timing of their meals - if they eat them at all - is unpredictable, a public defender said. The hairdressing salon is closed. The medical clinic is being stepped up, a staff member said.
Fear and tension are high.
" We have no minimum standards, no medical services, no recreation, no religious or law and library services "said inmate Reginald Wiggins, 58. "We haven't had an officer in this unit for three weeks. I fear for my life. "
In May, Mr. de Blasio appointed a new correctional commissioner, Vincent Schiraldi, considered to be an experienced reformer, and the mayor is committed to hiremore correctional officers, although these hires are unlikely to bring any relief to the system until next year. The fact that Mr de Blasio has not visited Rikers since the summer of 2017 has infuriated advocates for incarcerated persons.
Keith Powers , a city council member who heads the criminal justice commission, visits Rikers several times a year, he said, and invited Mr. de Blasio to visit him.
"In times of crisis, this is when you want to introduce yourself to better understand what the problems are, " he said. "It is important both symbolically, but also structurally, to understand the urgency of solving the problem. "
Four years ago, M. de Blasio rejected its supportbehind a proposal to shut down Rikers . An 8 billion dollar plan produced two years later called for the complex 's closure by 2026 and the construction of four new prisons across the city, although this timeline can be put in doubt.
Eric Adams, the Democratic mayoral candidate who is strongly favored to win the general election November, supports Rikers shutdown, but a objected to the locations chosen for three of the new prison sites. Mr. Adams, a former police captain who executes on a public order message, visited Rikers this month with Mr. Sch iraldi and the union leaders.
Mr. Adams released a plan for Rikers that includes moving mentally ill inmates and drug addicts off the island and banning correctional officers fromwork triple shift.
"Eric believes the situation at Rikers is now a crisis in its own right that must be resolved with immediate investments in staff and resources, as well as new policies that protect inmates and officers - and that we can't wait for new prisons to solve this problem, ”Evan Thies, a spokesperson for Adams, said in a statement.
Curtis Sliwa, the Republican candidate for mayor, held an event outside Gracie Mansion on Sunday to urge Mr. de Blasio to visit Rikers and draw attention to correctional officers who have been attacked by inmates. Mr. Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, opposes the closure of Rikers and wants to build new facilities on the island.
More immediately , Mr. Sliwa would like to hire 2000 more correctional officers and keep the emotionally disturbed people away from the island. He said he was detained at Rikers in the 1980s and saw the conditions for himself.
"This is 'collapsing, and it ' s not fair to inmates or correctional officers, "Mr. Sliwa said in an interview. " The doors are broken and lawlessness reigns. "
Three inmates have died in the past month, including Esias Johnson, a A 24 year old man who was being held on $ 1 bond and whose family said he was in pain of mental illness , and Brandon Rodriguez, a 25-year-old man who used a shirt to hang himself. After their deaths, the Legal Aid Society said the corrections service had shown it could not keep people safe.nes and called on Mr de Blasio to reduce the number of detainees.
The vast majority of detainees in Rikers, as well as in other prisons in the city, await trial. There are currently nearly 6,000 people detained in the city's prisons; more than three quarters of them have yet to be tried and are presumed innocent.
But Mr de Blasio recently said that he had no intention of releasing inmates from prison soon after criticism of a similar decision last year at the height of the pandemic. M. de Blasio denied a New York Post report that his administration was considering dHe released 180 detainees, and his police commissioner, Dermot Shea, said he was against early release. .
Mr. de Blasio said it was possible that people in his administration were looking into the idea, but he said he did not support it.
" There are people who are constantly looking at different alternatives and evaluating them, but if they weren't approved, they literally weren't approved and that doesn't happen, "he said. he said.
Since mass absenteeism and mismanagement have plunged the city 's prison system even more into crisis this summer, leaving all Unsecured prisons, inmates said they witnessed the creation of more weapons, some made from aluminum sourced from overhead lights.
"We did not come to prison to die, "said Vict or Raimo, 51, who has two months left to serve a six-month sentence and is concerned for his safety. "It 's criminal what is happening here. There is no care, custody and control. We need help.