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Advocates oppose NY DOC commissioner’s request to keep inmates on lockdown

DCCC requested a waiver of rules requiring 14 hours of out-of-cell time at the George R. Vierno Center after seven slashings last weekend in that jail

By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News

NEW YORK - The Correction Department’s plea to stem the recent wave of violence at a Rikers Island jail by locking inmates in their cells much longer each day is being sharply opposed by civil rights advocates.

DOC Commissioner Louis Molina asked the Board of Correction Thursday to waive rules which require 14 hours of out-of-cell time at the George R. Vierno Center, a necessary move, he said, after seven slashings last weekend in that jail.

The effect would be to keep the jail’s 800 prisoners in their cells for seven additional hours each day. The BOC will consider the request Tuesday at its monthly meeting.

“With this variance, DOC seeks to deflect attention away from the fact that they cannot get staff to show up, stay on post, and perform basic tasks like locking doors competently, and chaos has been the predictable result,” said Redmond Haskins, a spokesman for the Legal Aid Society.

“Locking people in concrete boxes 17 or more hours per day because they can’t manage the jail properly is a cynical and dangerous move.”

HALT Solitary Campaign organizer Anisah Sabur said Molina’s request was an attempt to undermine decades-old standards in the jails.

“He is collectively punishing 800 people, including those detained pre-trial on unaffordable bail, by locking them in one of the harshest and most restrictive settings in the jail system. Are you kidding me?” Sabur said.

Molina said the Vierno Center has been the site of 79 slashings since June 1, compared to 80 in the all the city’s other jails.