Legal Aid Society


Report: Rikers Continues to Fail on Sanitation, Fire Safety, More

The latest report on conditions at Rikers Island paints a startling picture of dangerous health and safety conditions in local jails as the result of failures by the Department of Correction (DOC).

An independent monitor, the result of The Legal Aid Society’s litigation in Benjamin v. Maginley-Liddie, found thousands of violations in its most recent reporting period, including numerous ongoing issues with fire safety and sanitation.

“Once again, the court-appointed monitor of Rikers Island has issued a scathing report of DOC’s unwillingness to adequately address the litany of sanitation violations present within its facilities, which are rife with accumulated dirt, garbage, vermin, and surfaces that are so neglected and deteriorated that they are uncleanable,” said Lauren Stephens-Davidowitz an attorney with Legal Aid’s Prisoners’ Rights Project. “What’s most alarming is how long these violations have persisted, with DOC ignoring its obligations to maintain and repair the facilities.”

“The result is a jail system marked by inhumane and unsafe living conditions,” she continued. “This report, like the ones before, reflects a department that lacks any urgency to address the fact that its jails fail to provide even the most basic standards of cleanliness and decency.”

“Adequate fire safety equipment and protocols are some of the most basic components of standard building maintenance, yet DOC has yet again failed to implement any new or updated systems to protect the thousands of people housed on Rikers Island,” added Legal Aid’s Robert Quackenbush.

Ventilation, another fundamental necessity in a jail setting, could not be evaluated because the Department of Correction had failed to provide any of the required reporting in that area.

“DOC must take immediate action to rectify this situation,” said Legal Aid’s Veronica Vela.Moreover, DOC should be held responsible for any ill effects these conditions have had on the incarcerated New Yorkers housed in their facilities.”