With Rikers in Crisis, Critics Wonder: Where Is Bill de Blasio?
Mr. Adams released a plan for Rikers that includes moving mentally ill inmates and those who are addicted to drugs out of the complex and to ban officers from working triple shifts, something that has become more common as other officers are chronically absent.
“Eric believes the situation at Rikers is now a full-blown crisis that must be addressed with immediate investments in personnel and resources, as well as new policies that protect inmates and officers alike, and that we cannot wait for new jails to solve this problem,” Evan Thies, a spokesman for Mr. Adams, said in a statement.
Curtis Sliwa, the Republican nominee for mayor, held an event near Gracie Mansion on Sunday to urge Mr. de Blasio to visit Rikers and to draw attention to officers who have been attacked by people incarcerated there. Mr. Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, opposes closing Rikers and wants to build new facilities at the complex.
More immediately, Mr. Sliwa wants to hire 2,000 additional officers and to remove emotionally disturbed people from the complex. He said he had been held at Rikers in the 1980s and had seen the conditions for himself.
“It’s falling apart, and it’s not fair to the inmates or the correction officers,” Mr. Sliwa said in an interview. “The doors are broken, and anarchy rules.”
Three incarcerated people have died at Rikers in the past month, including Esias Johnson, a 24-year-old man who was being held on $1 bail and whose family said he had struggled with 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 Correction Department had shown it could not keep people safe and called on Mr. de Blasio to reduce the number of people being detained at the complex.
The vast majority of those being held at Rikers, as well as in other city jails, are awaiting trial. There are currently close to 6,000 people in custody in the jails; more than three-quarters have yet to be tried and are presumed innocent.