Lawmakers Join Call to Immediately Decarcerate Rikers Island

Following a spate of deaths and reports of illegal, dangerous conditions in city jails, 14 elected officials visited Rikers Island yesterday, alongside public defenders and advocates, to observe the facility firsthand. They described a jail in deadly disarray and joined New York’s defender organizations in their demands to address the unfolding crisis, as reported by Reuters.

In the past year, at least ten individuals have died in Department of Correction custody. Three have died in the last month. The deaths are tied to a rash of Department of Correction employees not showing up for work. According to The New York Times, staff members failed to report for 2,300 shifts in the month of July without providing notice.

At a press conference following the visit, officials called on the city and state to use every tool at its disposal to decarcerate immediately: urging prosecutors to stop seeking cash bail and judges to stop setting it; urging the mayor to grant incarcerated people work release under Correction Law Article 6-A, just as he did at the start of the pandemic; and calling on the governor to sign and implement the Less is More Act immediately, which would drastically reduce the jail population by reforming the punitive parole system.

“To stave off further loss of life, City Hall must work with local prosecutors and the State to immediately decarcerate,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society.