Lawyers representing Rikers Island detainees plan to petition a federal judge to seize control of the prison complex from New York City. The hearing might be critical.
In a letter, a federal officer monitoring the island detention centre revealed the attorneys’ objective. It is where most of the city’s inmates are located. The letter might be the first step in a long process that decides the destiny of Rikers.
Situation Worsened Dramatically
Judge Laura T. Swain decides whether to appoint a receiver to operate the city’s prisons. As of Monday, the city, the DOJ, and the monitor, Steve J. Martin, were not in favour of appointing a receiver. On Thursday, the parties will debate the complex.
The Justice Department said that it might ask for a receiver along with the lawyers for the inmates or ask for other steps to fix Rikers.
18 individuals will die in NYC prisons in 2022. Mr. Martin’s October research revealed that monthly stabbing and cutting rates “rose tremendously” in 2021 and 2022.
The use of force by correctional officials on inmates, an issue the monitor was installed to address in 2015, is also greater than seven years ago.
Peaked in September 2021
Persistent employee absenteeism started during the coronavirus epidemic. According to the monitor’s assessment, the situation peaked in September 2021, when 2,000 of 8,000 employees called in sick daily.
Under new prisons commissioner Louis A. Molina, the situation has improved. But roughly 800 workers, or 12 percent of the labour force, still don’t show up for work, the study revealed.
Without enough personnel, inmates’ fundamental needs aren’t satisfied, and prisons don’t run well. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn accused three policemen of lying about being ill while collecting pay.
Can’t Hire Non-Union Members
Some critics of Mr. Molina’s leadership say a takeover would help Rikers. The monitor doesn’t have much direct control over Rikers Island.
But a receiver would be able to get around institutional problems, such as a union contract that gives correction officers unlimited sick leave. A state law says the city can’t hire non-union members for certain jobs.
Still, prisoners’ attorneys from the Legal Aid Society’s prisoner’s rights project and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff, Abady Ward, and Maazel aren’t promised victory in their campaign for a new authority to administer Rikers Island.
Eric Adams and Jose Molina opposed a receiver. During a May conference in front of Judge Swain, Mr. Molina said, “Change must come from the inside.”
Mr. Martin has voiced confidence in Mr. Molina, praising him for his “courage to make controversial reforms” and “creativity in tackling decades-old issues.”
And the law says that Judge Swain can only put someone in charge of a jail as a last resort, after all other options for jail reform have been tried.
Judge Dismissed the Plea
Prisoners’ counsel asked Judge Swain for a deadline to pursue contempt and a receiver in May.
Judge Swain rejected the plea, saying a municipal action plan will tackle Rikers’ “ongoing issue.”
The court said extra procedures may be needed if city officials don’t “fulfil their commitments and make rapid adjustments.”
This week, she may let the convicts’ lawyers proceed with their application for receivership or stop them, allowing the city to run Rikers Island.