Elected Officials to Tour Rikers Despite City Pushback

A contingent of 14 elected officials, together with representatives from New York’s defender organizations, will visit Rikers Island this morning to view firsthand the illegal and unsafe conditions in the facility, as reported by the New York Daily News. The de Blasio administration had initially attempted to delay the visit until later in the week but has since relented.

Lawmakers are alarmed at the growing humanitarian crisis unfolding in City jails, where at least ten individuals have died this year. In addition to the increasing spread of COVID-19, a mass wave of staff absenteeism has compounded long-standing problems to create an extraordinarily dangerous environment for people in custody.

Adding to an already volatile situation is the facilities’ issues with air conditioning. A new report in City Limits details the failures of the Departments of Corrections’ “heat action plan.” Robert Quackenbush, an attorney with the Prisoners’ Rights Project of The Legal Aid Society was not surprised, noting that 2021 plan continued similar flaws to previous years, which subjects “incarcerated people to unacceptable, extreme temperatures.”

The Legal Aid Society continues to call on City Hall, the District Attorneys, the courts, and every stakeholder in the criminal system to take immediate steps to remove people from this dire situation.