Damian Williams, the top Federal attorney tasked with enforcing Federal laws, has yet to tour Rikers Island.
By LOUIS FLORES
Updated 20 May 2022 14:45 The office of U.S. Attorney Damian Williams on Wednesday would not commit to visiting Rikers Island after the City of New York submitted yet another plan to bring the troubled jail complex into compliance with the U.S. Constitution. In April, the office of U.S. Attorney Williams had threatened to “seek more aggressive relief” to bring long, overdue reforms to Rikers Island if the City of New York failed to make “dramatic systemic reforms,” amongst other demands, according to a report published by the New York Times.
Many politicians have visited Rikers Island for various reasons, sometimes political, sometimes in pursuit of reform. Earlier in May, Mayor Eric Adams (D-New York City) visited the island jail complex to “show appreciation” to Rikers’ correctional officers, who are at the centre of ongoing controversies about reported Constitutional rights violations at the jail complex. Prior to that, U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY 14) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY 03), amongst other Federal legislators, visited Rikers in 2021 and spoke with correctional staff and inmates, according to a report broadcast by the NY1 cable news channel. When a delegation of State and Municipal Legislators toured Rikers in 2021, an inmate threatened to hang himself in the intake area in the presence of Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas (D-Queens) and State Senator Jessica Ramos (D-Queens), according to a report published at that time then by the New York Post.
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The demands for reform keep going unanswered.
Rikers Island became the subject of a Federal investigation over Constitutional rights violations under then U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. In 2015, U.S. Attorney Bharara’s office negotiated a Settlement Agreement that led to the appointment of a Federal monitor. The City of New York made promises of reforms, but the administration of then Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) never brought the jail complex into compliance with the law.
The latest plan for reform was forwarded to U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who is overseeing the legacy of former U.S. Attorney Bharara’s investigation into Rikers, and jail inmates await a ruling on the issue of receivership from the judge. The Rikers Federal monitor, Steve Martin, has issued a “qualified endorsement” of the latest City plan, according to a report published by the New York Daily News. A hearing is scheduled for 24 May.
Last year, 16 inmates died in Rikers custody, and, thus far in 2022, five inmates have died, according to statistics published by the Daily News.
- Rikers Island detainee dies after drug overdose in women’s jail [The New York Daily News]
- Department of Correction submits plan to ‘fix’ Rikers Island [PIX11]
- Former NYC jails boss advocates for federal takeover of Rikers Island [City & State]
- Adams visits Rikers for first time as mayor to ‘show appreciation for’ correction officers amid deepening NYC jail crisis [The New York Daily News]
- Chaos at Rikers Could Lead to Federal Court Control, U.S. Attorney Says [The New York Times]
- Torres, AOC, Maloney, and Suozzi tour Rikers amid ongoing crisis [NY1]
- Preet Bharara announces framework of settlement over the “culture of violence” at Rikers Island [UPDATED] [Progress Queens]