Legal Aid Society


New Report Details Dire Sanitation, Ventilation, and Fire Safety Issues on Rikers

The Legal Aid Society is condemning the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) over its long-standing failure to comply with a consent decree in Benjamin v. Molina, class action litigation Legal Aid filed in 1975 that challenged a broad range of environmental conditions and practices in the entire New York City jail system, including fire risks, sanitation deficiencies, and ventilation system concerns.

The progress report released yesterday by the Office of Compliance Consultants, the court monitor, which covers the period from January 2023 to April 2023, paints a dire picture of dangerous health and safety conditions in local jails. Inspections conducted during this monitoring period recorded thousands of Benjamin violations distributed across all jail facilities.

George R. Vierno Center

Moreover, the Monitor repeatedly notes that the production of these reports has become increasingly difficult due to DOC’s refusal to provide accurate and timely data, if any data at all, on a range of relevant topics.

“Rikers is not just unsanitary, it is a collection of crumbling buildings rendered unfit for human habitation by the decades of accumulated filth on surfaces so neglected that many could not be adequately cleaned even if there was a will to do so,” said Veronica Vela, supervising attorney with the Prisoners’ Rights Project. “And, there is no evidence that DOC has any will to address these issues.”

George R. Vierno Center

“Month after month the court monitor issues reports showing jail facilities overrun with dust, mold, rodents, and a litany of other sanitation violations,” she continued. “What’s more, the reports show the same violations persisting in the same housing areas for months or years. This reflects a Department that not only lacks urgency to comply with the Benjamin court orders, but is wholly unconcerned with providing safe and humane living conditions for the human beings in its custody.”

View additional photos of the deplorable conditions here.