Rikers Island to Release Hundreds of Detainees

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Governor of New York Kathy hochul announced that nearly 200 Rikers Island inmates would be released at a press conference in his downtown office on Friday.

The city’s first female governor, who described the detention jail as a “volatile garbage can,” made the announcement just before enacting the Less is More law, which aims to prevent “technical” violations from handing over ex- inmates in prison. .

The newly released inmates were all in jail due to this type of “technical” violation, which includes such things as delaying an appointment with a parole officer, breaching the curfew or taking a test. positive for drugs and alcohol.

The law was passed amid concerns about the prison’s overcrowding, staff shortages and drug cases of the coronavirus.

“New York State is incarcerating more people for parole violations than anywhere in the country,” Hochul told the conference. “It’s a point of shame for us, and it needs to be fixed. It will be fixed today.

The law will not come into full force until March 2022.

The current crisis on Rikers Island has been recognized by New York officials for decades.

The huge prison is the largest correctional facility in the world and has made headlines for its issues of violence, long waits for inmates for trial and abuse by staff.

The obstacles faced by inmates at the prison were captured in the highly acclaimed documentary TV miniseries Kalief’s Browder story in 2017.

Browder, who was 16 at the time, was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack and spent three years at the facility awaiting trial.

The series covered the physical and emotional abuse the teen suffered from other inmates and correctional officers throughout his stay, leading to his two-year stay in solitary confinement. Browder was released for lack of evidence in 2013.

In November 2013, Browder filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department, the Bronx District Attorney, and the Department of Corrections, for his delayed trial and malicious persecution.

Two years later, he committed suicide. His death is believed to be the direct result of a mental illness caused by the trauma he suffered in Rikers and in isolation.

His death and the docuseries helped advance a litany of policies to reform juvenile incarceration and outlaw solitary confinement for minors. Mayor Bill De Blasio submitted a proposal for the definitive closure of the penitentiary establishment by 2027.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the ongoing problems plaguing the facility.

There have been several reports of inmate deaths linked to COVID, including three men who died due to the establishment’s failure to comply with social distancing measures, providing masks to inmates, keeping the facility clean and distributing treatment for people who already had underlying breathing problems. problems.

The prison is also extremely overcrowded, making it more difficult to control the spread.

In addition, the Department of Corrections reported that more than a third of prison guards were ill on leave or medically unfit to work with inmates at some point in the summer.

The New York Times reported that only 36% of Rikers inmates are fully vaccinated, with the facility touting a higher average seven-day positive test rate than the city.

Lieutenant Governor of New York Kathy Hochul
New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul says the crisis on Rikers Island is “deeply disturbing” as she signs the Less is More Act on September 17, 2021. (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

“How does this hell on Earth exist today,” said Hochul, who said the crisis was “deeply disturbing” and that she wished she had the legal power to implement the law now.

“It challenges who we are as people that we can allow a situation that we saw in Rikers to exist in a prosperous and powerful city like New York. The fact that this exists is an indictment for everyone, and I will do what I can, ”she added.

The governor also announced that 200 additional inmates, with less than 60 to 90 days remaining in their sentence, will be transferred to another public facility.

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