Eric Adams hails progress at Rikers Island despite deaths and ‘full-fledged humanitarian crisis’ in city jails

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At least nine people have died this year while in the custody of the New York City Department of Corrections, including two this week alone.

A man died in custody in the Bellevue Hospital Detention Unit in Manhattan on Tuesday. On Monday, an inmate died at the George R Vierno Center in the city’s main prison complex on Rikers Island. Last year, at least 16 people died while in custody at Rikers.

Another man recently detained at the facility, Antonio Bradley, died eight days after attempting to hang himself in a Bronx Criminal Court holding cell. He was on life support at Lincoln Hospital, but his death on June 18 was not recorded as a death in custody because he was granted ‘compassionate release’ while on his bed. dead, according The New York Daily News.

After touring the troubled facility on June 22, Mayor Eric Adams said “our city’s era of neglecting violence and dysfunctional prisons is over,” pointing to the confiscation of more than 2,700 guns in the complex, attributed to the return of “uniformed personnel returning to duty” and “tactical search operations”.

“There is still a lot of work to do, but [Department of Correction commissioner Louis Molina] and I am determined to meet the challenges we face and implement the reforms needed to build safer and more humane prisons for those who live and work in Rikers,” the mayor said in a statement.

While City Hall reports that rates of cuts and stabbings at the compound have dropped 63% since March, reports from the Board of Corrections this month show violence increased in April and May alongside incidents use of force among correctional officers.

A statement from the Legal Aid Society, which represented Albert Drye, who died in Bellevue on June 21, said the department had refused to provide its lawyers with “the most basic information regarding his death”, an “all too common scenario that we – as well as the client’s family members, friends and community – regularly face these tragic situations.

The organization demanded “immediate responses from city and prison medical staff” about his death, and renewed calls for elected officials, prosecutors and others “to facilitate the decarceration of local prisons before another New Yorkers don’t have to spend their last moments confined to a cage in a facility grappling with a full-fledged humanitarian crisis.

Mayor’s appearance and announcement to Rikers is ‘both irresponsible and insensitive’ according to the Legal Aid Society.

“It is emblematic of how City Hall views incarcerated individuals as second-class citizens, guilty until proven guilty and unworthy of compassion,” the group said in a statement. “The extraordinarily high death rate under Mayor Adams’ watch and the suffering of all those kept in appalling conditions inside constitute a humanitarian crisis that this administration appears unable to remedy anytime soon.”

Advocates have lobbied federal authorities to deal with the crisis, but a federal judge this month endorsed the city’s ‘action plan’ for reform, potentially averting a federal takeover of the prison .

The plan “represents a way to move forward with concrete steps now to resolve the ongoing crisis at Rikers Island,” according to a filing by U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain.

Judge Swain warned that the city could face consequences if officials “fail to deliver on their commitments and demonstrate their ability to make the urgently needed changes.”

A 26-page plan released by the city in May outlines steps for the Department of Corrections to address staffing issues and revamp leadership. Mayor Adams also issued an executive order creating an interagency task force to address the crisis at the prison.

“As the plan makes clear and as the court agreed, we have a strategy to aggressively unravel the dysfunction that has plagued prisons and put them on a path to real and lasting reform,” said Mayor Adams in a statement earlier this month.

“We won’t rest until the dysfunction at Rikers is resolved, these reforms are implemented, and the people we care for and who work on the island are safe 24 hours a day. “, did he declare.

A federal monitor appointed to oversee deteriorating conditions at the jail was cautiously optimistic about potential progress at the jail, but warned he had ‘serious concerns’ about the city’s ability to put the plan into action , arguing that the plan is not enough on its own to deal with the daily “danger, violence and chaos” inside the prison.

After “decades of mismanagement, a quagmire of bureaucracy, and the limited skills of many who must lead the necessary transformation, serious concerns remain about whether the city and county are able to fully and faithfully implement this plan. action with integrity,” according to the federal monitoring team.

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