Legal Aid Society


DOC Failed to Conduct Fire Safety Inspections on Rikers for Over a Year

The Legal Aid Society is condemning the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) for failing to conduct fire safety inspections for over a year at the North Infirmary Command at Rikers Island, as reported by the New York Daily News.

A recent DOC audit of the Fire Safety Office post revealed that no mandated weekly or monthly Fire Safety reports were conducted from April 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023.

This comes one month after the Office of Compliance Consultants, a court-appointed monitor, released a progress report detailing thousands of dangerous health and safety violations across all Rikers Island facilities. Many of these violations pertained to fire safety risks and environmental hazards.

Rikers Island facilities have experienced numerous fires over the last decade. In April, a fire at NIC injured 20 incarcerated persons and staff, including two who suffered serious burns, after the sprinkler system failed. An investigation of that fire, which likely led to the audit of fire safety inspections, revealed that the sprinkler system had been taken off line after being damaged. DOC could not determine how long the sprinkler system was non-functional.

“This pattern of gross noncompliance at Rikers Island continues to put lives at risk,” said Robert Quackenbush, an attorney with the Prisoners’ Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society.

“The recent fire safety audit has proven, once again, that current DOC leadership is incapable of providing safe and humane living conditions for the people incarcerated at their facilities,” he continued. “The unfortunate truth is that as long as Rikers Island is open, everyone who lives and works there is in constant danger from numerous, ever-present, unaddressed safety violations.”