Legal Aid Society


Judge Will Consider Outside Control of Rikers

Judge Laura Taylor Swain has ruled that she will hear arguments that could lead to independent control by a third party, also called receivership, of parts of New York City’s jail system, as reported by The New York Times.

The Legal Aid Society has long been a proponent of receivership as a necessary means for obtaining the City’s compliance with federal court orders to reduce the culture of violence in the City jails.

Although rare, receiverships have been used to address local government’s refusal to remedy civil rights violations, including schools that refused to desegregate, children’s service agencies that failed children, and several jails and prisons, including Washington D.C., the state of California, and Alabama.

The ruling comes in response to over eight years of the City’s inability to comply with the core requirements of the court-ordered relief in Nunez v. City of New York, litigation brought by Legal Aid and partner Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff and Abady concerning brutality and excessive force in City jails. Conditions in the City’s jails have only deteriorated over time; more than 40 New Yorkers have died in custody since the start of 2021.

While the process will have many steps and take time, Legal Aid is hailing the decision as an important step.

“Since the consent judgment went into effect more than eight years ago, the humanitarian crisis plaguing City jails has only worsened, and only independent authority in the form of a receiver can secure the progress that two administrations, multiple Correction commissioners, countless recommendations from the Nunez Monitor, remedial orders and, most recently, the Adams Administration’s ‘Action Plan’ have all failed to achieve,” said Mary Lynne Werlwas, Director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society.

“We look forward to demonstrating the urgent need for the appointment of a receiver to protect our incarcerated clients’ safety, well-being, and constitutional rights,” she continued.