Sign up for our PoliticsNY newsletter for the latest coverage and stay informed of the 2021 elections in your district and across NYC
Five years after his last visit, Mayor Bill de Blasio finally set foot on Rikers Island on Monday, September 27 – he toured the troubled correctional facility amid public outcry over inhumane conditions for inmates and law enforcement officers.
While providing general information on his previous promises to address the situation in the short term, de Blasio said that Rikers Island had always “upset” him about the deplorable conditions – but he announced that the prison’s closure should finally move forward by 2026 – All, end-all, solution to the crisis.
“This place is a place that shouldn’t generally be a prison anymore,” said de Blasio, adding, “I was upset when I took office. I was annoyed four years ago. I stay upset. This is a place that should have been closed a long, long time ago. ”
More than a dozen prisoners died on Rikers Island this year alone. P.Redest groups and elected officials have been calling for changes in the past few weeks, with some breaking into tears after touring the facility over what they saw – including an attempted suicide.
On Monday afternoon, reporters were not allowed to accompany the mayor on his tour of the prisons, although he subsequently addressed the media at a press conference in a tiny office. De Blasio said he had not spoken to any inmates and declined to provide much detail about what he saw.
The Mayor visited two main locations, the Eric M. Taylor Center and the Otis Bantum Correctional Center, and said there were many “improvements needed”.
At the post-tour press conference, which he stressed was a review of progress, de Blasio blamed various factors that contributed to the crumbling 85-year-old building, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Correctional officers reporting sick, deteriorating infrastructure, including scapegoats.
“The union has exacerbated this crisis. The union has acted incredibly irresponsibly. Today was about the work we have to do, ”said the mayor.
“Here’s the bottom line: we have a lot of changes to make and I came here to see the work that is being done to address the issues immediately,” added de Blasio, listing the issues that need to be addressed immediately .
The mayor also explains that his overall goal is to shut down Rikers Island, which he has always planned since his first election.
De Blasio, who was visibly upset during the briefing, said the process had begun by reducing the prison population to well below 5,000 currently incarcerated, while increasing support from health teams and speeding up the admission process.
“Fewer inmates, faster admissions, better, safer health and the return of people who haven’t worked,” he said, adding that correctional officers who have not returned to work will be suspended.
DOC commissioner Vincent Schiraldi thanked the mayor for his support over the past few weeks in addressing the “disturbing” conditions in the facilities.
“Things have demonstrably improved. I still think we are very busy and we are going to do this job but triples are gone, sick leave is gone, AWOLs are gone, the population is down and now every housing unit has programs available to them in units. We can’t take them all into our free time because we still don’t have enough staff to take them into our free time, ”said Schiraldi.
Both Schiraldi and de Blasio said the biggest problem was solving the staff who came to work, which was resolved by the suspension of those who are AWOL or who have not returned. He also announced that the intake was once for 24 hours and improved to 10 hours.
After the press conference, COBA President Benny Boscio stopped the press outside the facility and denounced the mayor by claiming that he had not actually seen Rikers, but received a “sugar-coated” version instead.