New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex has failed to comply with minimum safety standards and has become so dangerous that it can no longer be permitted to accept inmate transfers from outside New York City, says a New York State oversight agency, the New York Times reports. The State Commission of Correction ordered a halt to inmate transfers from county jails outside the five boroughs. Such transfers typically involve inmates like former correction officers or gang leaders who face an increased risk of violence at jails in their home counties. “Given the critical security nature of the operations associated with these findings, coupled with the extended period during which no substantive, departmentwide corrective actions appear to have been implemented, the Commission of Correction concluded that this restrictive step was both appropriate and necessary,” the state said in a letter to city officials.
The oversight agency identified failures uncovered over inspections dating back several years that the city has consistently failed to address. Given the many problems at Rikers, the failures identified by the commission seem relatively minor: housing areas not adequately staffed; electronic monitoring devices meant to ensure guards are conducting their rounds were not installed or being used; officers’ private firearms were not inspected, and officers were issued pepper spray and other chemical agents even though their certifications to use such weapons had lapsed. The finding comes in the midst of a feud between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor has frequently criticized the mayor over the spiraling crisis at Rikers Island, notwithstanding his own struggles to rein in brutality and corruption in the state prison system. A City Hall spokeswoman said the city had submitted plans to address many of the issues raised by the state commission and had started taking steps to resolve them.