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New unit at Rikers for fire-setting inmates closed after 1 day due to lack of fire prevention equipment

The federal monitor said the need for fire suppression is “particularly acute for a unit attempting to re-house known fire-setters and thereby reduce arsons”


AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

By Kyle Lawson
Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A new unit was opened on Rikers Island for individuals suspected of setting fires, but closed the next day after a federal monitor found it lacked required fire prevention equipment, Gothamist reported.

A special report filed in a New York federal court on Thursday by federal monitor Steve Martin — who along with a team is charged with overseeing conditions at Rikers Island under a 2015 court agreement to reduce violence in the jails — noted the apparent oversight.

Fire suppression systems are necessary for all housing units, Martin said, but the need is “particularly acute for a unit attempting to re-house known fire-setters and thereby reduce arsons,” the outlet reported.

Frank Dwyer , a spokesman for the city Department of Correction , said the unit has enough sprinklers to meet city building codes, but not one in every cell.

The new housing unit was designed for detainees suspected of starting fires, with the aim to reduce the overall number of fires on Rikers Island .

Lawyers, meanwhile, continue to debate whether control of New York City’s jails should be placed under federal receivership, due to increasingly unsafe conditions at Rikers Island , including high levels of violence, officers’ using force on detainees and a lack of transparency on the issues from city leaders, the Advance/ previously reported.

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