NEW YORK (AP) — A court-appointed warden is urging a judge to launch a contempt lawsuit against New York City over conditions at the troubled Rikers Island prison facility, the nation’s most populous prison. It paves the way for a possible federal takeover of Rikers Island’s extensive prison system. city.
In a report filed in Manhattan federal court on Monday, officials said the city had failed to follow a series of court orders aimed at curbing violence and mismanagement on Rikers Island.
The report comes a month after a federal judge said he would consider taking control of one of the nation’s largest and most famous prisons in an unusual intervention to end New York City’s control over the prison. It was announced shortly after. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has strongly opposed the federal takeover. A judge’s ruling could come as early as next month.
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In the nearly 300-page report, court-appointed observers said there had been an “an alarming level of setbacks” since the city agreed last June to follow an action plan aimed at stabilizing the prison system. ” explained. Observer Steve Martin said the Department of Corrections repeatedly failed to consult observers, demonstrating “a reluctance and ignorance of myriad problems.”
“The pace of reform has stalled rather than accelerated in many key areas,” Martin said. It means that there is no relief,” he said.
A city hall spokeswoman said the report was still under review but would defend any allegations of disrespect.
Advocates of the detainees have long believed that a federal trusteeship was needed to stop the violence on Rikers Island, which killed 19 people last year and was the deadliest in a quarter century. Many believe that a finding of insult is the first step into the federal receivership system.
“The constitutional rights of those detained in the city are violated every day,” said Kayla Simpson, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society who represents Rikers Island detainees. She said, “The monitor is saying, ‘Enough is enough.'”
Meanwhile, Adams repeatedly touted the success of his efforts to improve conditions on Rikers Island, with fewer slashings and staff absenteeism since his appointment as Director of Corrections Luis Molina in January 2022. mentioned.
But these achievements also raise questions about whether prison officials were trying to reduce transparency to both the public and federal observers about what was going on on Rikers Island.
In recent months, wardens have documented numerous violent incidents that prison officials allegedly failed to report, including the death of a detainee who was initially believed to have suffered a heart attack but was later found to have died of a skull fracture. reported in detail.
Another man who tried to flee the guards was also grappled and paralyzed from the neck down, but the injuries were also not properly reported, observers said.
“The failure of staff to comply with their reporting obligations, even for the most serious incidents, calls into question the overall truthfulness of the reports and the commitment to transparency within the agency,” the watchdog said in a recent update. in its report.
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