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Work Stoppage Drives Humanitarian Crisis on Rikers Island

New data released by the federal monitor in Nunez v. City of New York – litigation brought by The Legal Aid Society to challenge the systemic brutality by staff against people incarcerated in New York City jails – shows that the City has failed to get uniformed correction officers to end their sickout that is causing a humanitarian crisis in the jails, as reported by Gothamist.

According to the report, roughly 29 percent or 2,351 uniformed officers were reportedly unavailable to work as of the most recent data on November 3, 2021, paralyzing the Department of Correction’s ability to care for and keep safe the New Yorkers in its custody. At least 1,515 officers were out on reported “sick leave”- nearly a fifth of uniform staff.

In successive Emergency Orders dated September 15 and November 1, 2021, Mayor DeBlasio ordered immediate actions to curb the correction officers’ refusal to work. The correction officers also received a special exemption from the Mayor’s vaccine mandate for all City workers, and were given until December 1, 2021, to comply with the vaccination order.

“The City’s initiatives have failed to get their workforce back on the job, and their absence is leading to extraordinary danger in the jails, said Mary Lynne Werlwas, Director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society. “We face the frightening possibility that this ongoing humanitarian crisis at Rikers Island will get worse.”