Justice Department honchos are expected to be grilled during a city council hearing Wednesday on violence and poor management at Rikers Island.
Councilwoman Carlina Rivera said she and other members of the Criminal Justice Committee, which she chairs, will demand that the DOC explain its horrifying performance in the recent annihilation report by Steve J. Martin, a federal monitor overseeing the agency’s court-ordered reform efforts.
“The atrocities, detailed through data and horrifying anecdotes, confirm what attorneys have been telling us for years: Conditions in New York City’s prisons are well above the normal range and, to quote the surveillance team, ‘defying a sound correctional practice,’” the Manhattan Democrat said in a statement.
The 78-page report, released last week, was Martin’s first since Mayor Eric Adams took office earlier this year.
The rate of violence in city jails is “seven to eight times higher than in other correctional facilities,” according to the report, blaming massive understaffing and truant officers.
After the city’s prison system saw 16 inmates die in custody last year — the most since 2013 — this year is already at another deadly pace. An inmate at Rikers Island died Friday — the second death in the troubled city prison system in as many days and the third in 2022, officials said.
Martin questioned the new leadership of DOC Commissioner Louis Molina, who took over the department in January.
“The department is caught in a state of persistent dysfunction where even the first step in improving practice is undermined by the lack of elementary skills and the intertwining of basic corrective practices and systems,” noted Martin.
DOC hindered Martin’s work by not sharing personnel information and declining other requests, the monitor claimed.
Rivera, whose committee is holding a budget hearing on DOC’s $1.2 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year on Wednesday, said she was “appalled” by the department’s lack of “transparency” — and said it was not “tolerated.” “.
Martin quoted a December report by then-Comptroller Scott Stringer, who noted that the city spent a record $556,539 on housing each inmate in fiscal 2021, or four times what it spent 10 years earlier.
Benny Boscio, president of the Correction Officer’s Benevolent Association, tore up Martin’s account.
The observer lacks “a basic understanding” that incidents involving “use of force” only occur because correctional officers routinely break up fights between inmates, the union chairman said.
Molina did not directly respond to questions about the report, but said in a statement: “We must do better, and we can do better. We are moving forward as quickly as possible to fix long-standing issues.”
Martin was tapped as a monitor after Manhattan federal judge Laura Taylor Swain approved a landmark in October 2015 settlement in which the city committed to sweeping reforms on Rikers Island to resolve claims by correctional officers excessive force.
He and his team have earned more than $10 million.
The union and other critics have questioned whether Martin and his team only make the problems in the city jails worse.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/19/nyc-council-to-grill-corrections-dept-on-rikers-dysfunction/ NYC Council Grills Corrections Dept. on Riker’s ‘dysfunction’