Hochul Orders Release of 191 Detainees as Rikers Crisis Deepens
On Friday, Mr. de Blasio said the city had committed to releasing the 191 detainees as soon as possible. In some cases, he said, it might take several days to free those who had to appear in court before they could be released.
He also said the best way to reduce the jail population was to fully restart the court system.
“I’ve been appealing to the state to restart the whole criminal justice system, the court system fully,” he said.
But Ms. Clark, the Bronx District Attorney, said the staffing crisis had also exacerbated the backlog of court cases. Without an adequate number of guards, she said, defendants who are being held in the jails are not arriving to court on time, or at all.
“Now, because of the staffing issue, we have inmates indicted for violence while in jail who are not being produced for arraignment in a timely manner,” Ms. Clark said.
While officials seek to tamp down the chaos at the jail, virus rates among detainees appear to be climbing. Correctional health officials first reported an uptick in the prevalence of the virus in mid-August, followed by a spike in cases later in the month. After active cases and rates in the jail dropped to near zero in June and July, the seven-day average positive test rate among detainees — 4.36 percent this week — is now higher than the city’s overall 3.92 rate.
Only 36 percent of detainees and 37 percent of the Correction Department’s staff are fully vaccinated, according to city data.
“The current conditions are resulting in a rapid increase in Covid-19 infection rate in the jails. Previously effective control mechanisms such as isolation and quarantine will not be possible because of the department’s dysfunction and overcrowding,” Dr. Robert Cohen, a member of the Board of Correction, an independent body that monitors the jail system, said at a City Council hearing this week.