Emergency Rikers Relief Plan will bring 'very intense changes,' NYC mayor says
AWOL officers or those who call out sick for more than one day without documentation will face suspension for 30 days without pay
By Giavanni Alves
Staten Island Advance, N.Y.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Mayor Bill de Blasio believes an Emergency Rikers Relief Plan will address long-standing issues, as well as those recently exacerbated by coronavirus (COVID-19) conditions at the city jail.
"Everything goes back to the problem of Rikers Island itself. We need to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, but in the meantime we have immense challenges. So we're going to use executive powers to address some of these," the Mayor said during his daily morning press conference on Tuesday.
"We're going to use emergency orders to make some very intense changes in the situation," de Blasio said.
His five-point Emergency Rikers Relief Plan is outlined as follows:
- Emergency contracting: Through executive order emergency contracting will speed up the process to address immediate issues, such as broken doors and cleaning.
- Shift court staffing: Use NYPD officers to add support staff to the courts so Dept. of Corrections (DOC) officers in courts can work on Rikers where there is a shortage in staff.
- Accountability for AWOL DOC staff: AWOL DOC officers and those who call out sick for more than one day without proper medical documentation face suspension for 30 days without pay.
- Expand medical evaluation capacity: Contract additional medical providers to evaluate officers for duty.
- Speed up intake to reduce crowding: Two new clinics will open to help meet the goal of processing intakes within 24 hours.
The mayor pointed out that the severe consequences for AWOL DOC officers is due to the unsafe conditions that it creates for other officers on duty.
"We understand tremendous challenges have existed in Rikers before the pandemic and the pandemic made them worse. We understand it's tough work and the tough environment, but folks not showing up for work is unacceptable. And when any officer doesn't show up for work, they actually put every other officer in danger, and that's not acceptable," said de Blasio.
He also discussed the need for state involvement in addressing issues at Rikers, such as the Less is More Act, which was passed in both the N.Y. state assembly and senate in June and awaits the governor's signature. The legislation would help reduce the inmate population by enacting supervised release for non-violent offenders.
The mayor also called on the state to transfer all inmates currently scheduled to be moved to state facilities, and in future cases, to do transfers within five days of being arranged.
Mayor de Blasio then asked the Officer Court Administration to schedule 500 cases — a total of 1,500 people — that have been waiting for a trial to be scheduled for over a year. In addition, he is urging support judges to use supervised releases for nonviolent offenders, instead of pre-trial detention at Rikers.
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