New York City

DOC pushes improvement plan as Rikers gets worse

As the jail is set to close by 2027, efforts are underway to address living and working conditions at the struggling, understaffed facility.

Rikers Island Jail - New York City Department of Correction

Rikers Island Jail - New York City Department of Correction David Oppenheimer/ Flickr

As plans are underway to close Rikers Island, current living and working conditions at the complex continue to quickly deteriorate.

In a report issued late last month, the court-appointed federal monitor overseeing Rikers  found “a steady increase in serious use of force incidents, a disturbing rise in the level of security lapses and unchecked breaches and failures of basic security protocols, and instances of inadequate supervision,” the report said. Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to the findings, saying, “These are serious problems that need to be addressed.” 

“The whole culture of the Department of Correction needs a lot of change,” the mayor added.

Vincent Schiraldi, appointed as New York City Department of Correction Commissioner in May, has had his hands full taking on the job while a plan exists to shut down Rikers by 2027, replacing it with individual jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. 

Schiraldi toured the department’s facilities and rolled out a strategy for addressing the more immediate  concerns for both inmates and staff. 

Dubbed “#NewDayDOC,” the effort focuses on fairness, wellness and safety issues.  The correction commissioner expressed optimism about closing Rikers on schedule, while hoping to improve the deteriorating conditions there. He also stressed to City & State that it will take a full commitment by the city and all of the department’s stakeholders to achieve significant results. 

“It’s challenging to make the Department of Correction a priority, because most people never come here. It's not like filling potholes; everybody wants you to fill the potholes on their block. The mayor has to altruistically care about it. Otherwise, Rikers Island continues to be neglected, which it has been for decades,” Schiraldi said.

“We recently transmitted one of our jails to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, so that’s a first installment on getting off Rikers Island, Schiraldi said. “I actually talked to the DCAS commissioner, [Lisette Camilo], and told her she's going to own this place pretty soon, and I'm only too happy to give it to her because we really need to get off of this place and pour salt on the earth,” he said. 

Rikers has been facing alarming staff shortages, maintaining about four correction officers for every three inmates, a decrease from the previous five correction officers for every three inmates in 2020. Understaffing has led to employees working triple shifts and increased the threat of injury to workers by inmates. Ongoing grievances led the union representing the complex’s workers –  the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, or COBA –  to sue the city in July over “inhumane conditions” within city jails. COBA has also held rallies calling for greater support of staff.

The union at the same time criticized the federal monitor’s report for blaming absenteeism for causing worker shortages, failing to acknowledge the stress of working consecutive shifts and the threat of bodily harm to staff. 

Schiraldi expressed hope that #NewDayDOC will begin providing solutions to the current problems,  calling it a “comprehensive post-pandemic recovery plan” and the product of collaborative efforts between the DOC and various other local government bodies such as the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the city Law Department. 

The #NewDayDOC  plan is divided into five aspects of improvement the department wants to achieve: better safety, an end to triple shifts, greater staff support, a realignment of discipline protocols and providing inmates with more activities and social engagement. Between the five parts of the plan are 21 action items, among them are providing free catered meals to staff, a plan for breaking up gangs formed on the inside, and increasing communications between inmates and their families. 

Despite the goals set out by #NewDayDOC, Benny Boscio Jr., president of COBA, wasn’t convinced progress was on the way any time soon. “(Schiraldi and I have) met, but we haven't seen any substantial changes,” Boscio said.

As the term-limited de Blasio readies to leave office at the end of this year, the question remains whether Schiraldi will stay on with the new administration, likely to be that of Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams. Schiraldi has expressed interest in staying on, but Boscio questions the likelihood of Rikers obtaining the support it needs under the next administration. 

“The only thing I'd like to add is that the next mayor, whoever that will be, has vowed to clean up the streets of New York. When they do clean up the city of New York, guess where everybody's coming? They'll be on Rikers Island,” Boscio told City & State. “We don't have the resources we need now, and if those numbers increase, I don't know how we're going to be able to manage the inmate population.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.