Inmates of New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex are reportedly running amok.
Detainees at the understaffed jail have taken control of entire units, The New York Times reported.
So far this year, 11 Rikers Island detainees have died in custody.
Inmates of New York City’s long-beleaguered Rikers Island jail complex are running amok at the notorious lockup – and some have taken control over entire facility units, The New York Times reported on Monday.
“Rikers has long been dysfunctional, decrepit and dangerous,” Zachary Katznelson told the news outlet. He’s the executive director of a research and advocacy organization called Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform.
But Katznelson added, “What we see today is next level. It is an inability to deliver even the basic services – something we haven’t seen in a long time, if not ever.”
Detainees at the severely understaffed jail complex, which is made up of eight buildings and currently houses about 4,800 inmates, have asserted power over whole units, deciding who can enter and exit them, The Times reported, citing interviews and records.
Some Rikers inmates have stolen keys and used them to free other detainees, according to The Times.
In August, a man awaiting trial at the facility snatched keys from a city Department of Correction officer, set free another detainee, and then slashed the guard’s face and neck with a knife, the report said.
During another disturbing incident on September 16, a handcuffed Rikers inmate hijacked an unguarded bus with other detainees on board and crashed it into a jail building, according to The Times.
Other detainees have run wild in staff break rooms, as well as restricted areas of the complex, and openly broke rules against smoking tobacco and marijuana, the newspaper reported.
So far this year, 12 New York City detainees have died in custody, and 11 of them were being held on Rikers Island, according to The Times.
In connection to those deaths, four captains and eight corrections officers were penalized for not doing their jobs properly, the report said.
City Department of Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said in a statement to The Times Friday: “We expect and demand further improvement in the weeks to come.”
“We won’t rest until conditions improve and everyone who lives and works in our facilities feels safe,” Schiraldi said.
In a statement to Insider on Monday, Schiraldi said the current issues plauging Rikers “are a direct result of decades of societal neglect of both incarcerated New Yorkers and the men and women who work at New York City’s jails.”
“The current staffing crisis has exacerbated these issues and that is an acute problem we must fix today. No jail can run properly when a third of its staff are sick, AWOL, or otherwise unavailable to work,” Schiraldi said.
The commissioner continued, “We’ve taken aggressive measures to end the staffing crisis, and they are beginning to work; our population is dropping, officers are coming back to posts, and triple shifts are dramatically decreasing to the point where we are starting to see shifts with no triples at all.”
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