No federal takeover of Rikers Island as judge accepts NYC plan

Correction officials say their plan takes a harder line on the thousands of COs who have called in sick


By Bill Sanderson
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — A federal judge on Tuesday accepted Mayor Adams’ administration’s plan to fix the staffing and security crisis at Rikers Island — with a promise to review the city’s progress in November.

“This action plan represents a way to move forward with concrete measures now to address the ongoing crisis at Rikers Island,” Manhattan Federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain wrote.

A general view shows the Rikers Island facility on June 6, 2022.
A general view shows the Rikers Island facility on June 6, 2022. (Photo/Ed Jones of New York Daily News via MCT)

Swain said she issued Tuesday’s order “in full recognition that further remedial relief may be necessary should Defendants (the city and city officials) not fulfill their commitments and demonstrate their ability to make urgently needed changes.”

Swain noted in her ruling that city lawyers had assured the court that the plan was “entirely within the power” of Department of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina and Adams.

[RELATED: City pledges crackdown on Rikers Island in bid to avert jails' federal takeover]

The order reduces the likelihood of a court-appointed receiver to take over the troubled jail complex. Manhattan federal prosecutors, frustrated over the progress of reform, had floated the possibility of wresting control of the jail from city government.

Correction officials say their plan takes a harder line on the thousands of correction officers who have called in sick, leaving inmates without basic services and security. Correction officers who do show up to work end up working double or even triple shifts.

Correction officials also plan to improve security by assigning more jobs in the jails according to officers’ skills rather than seniority. Assignment to “mandatory posts,” which are inside jails, will be emphasized.

“There are no quick or easy solutions to reforming Rikers, but in just a few short months, we have seen reductions in slashings and stabbings, reductions in use of force and assaults on staff, increased searches for weapons and contraband, and fewer officers out on sick leave. It is a good start, but we must go much further,” Adams said.

“As the plan makes clear and as the court has agreed, we have a strategy to aggressively untangle the dysfunction that has plagued the jails and set them on a path of real, enduring reform.”

[RELATED: Unlimited sick leave may be on chopping block as judge considers NYC jails takeover]

Legal Aid Society lawyers advocating for Rikers detainees had called the city’s plan “vague, shortsighted and too weak,” and said it was not an alternative to federal receivership, which would put the city jails under federal court control.

Swain issued her ruling in her role administering what is known as the Nunez class action lawsuit, which is aimed at addressing excessive violence and abuse of inmates by staff at Rikers. It led to the appointment of a federal monitor over the jails in 2015.

The federal monitor in the Nunez case is to issue a report about Rikers in October — after which Swain plans to hold another hearing.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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