The Cuomo administration said Wednesday it will demand quick, efficient fixes to conditions at Rikers Island and four upstate jails that a state watchdog commission has deemed the worst local jails in New York.
In addition to Rikers Island, which is run by New York City, the 73-page report by the Commission on Correction listed the other “worst offenders” as the Greene County Jail in Catskill, the Buffalo area’s Erie County Holding Center and Correctional Facility, the Dutchess County Jail in Poughkeepsie, and the Syracuse area’s Onondaga County Justice Center and Penitentiary.
Alphonso David, the chief counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said the Democrat will demand a quick resolution to what he called “systemic, unconscionable and illegal conditions” at the five jails.
The Commission of Correction submitted its report to Gov. Cuomo as well as the leaders of the Legislature, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat. The report identifies the five jails as “the most problematic local correctional facilities” out of the 74 the state oversees.
“These facilities pose an ongoing risk to the health and safety of staff and inmates and, in instances, impose cruel and inhumane treatment of inmates in violation of their Constitutional rights,” the commission said.
Rikers Island, located in the East River between Queens and the Bronx, houses about 9,000 inmates. The sprawling complex continues to be plagued by failures in management and regulatory compliance, according to the commission’s report. The agency said it has tried to help jail management fix the issues, but the ongoing problems highlight “the need for closure of all jail facilities located on Rikers Island.”
An independent commission formed after a string of brutality cases that exposed poor supervision, questionable medical care and corruption at Rikers recommended its closure. Last March, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he intended to close the complex, saying it will take a decade.
Gov. Cuomo has said that’s too long, and David called the 10-year timeline “wholly unacceptable and repugnant to federal and state constitutional principles.”
The city’s Department of Correction didn’t have an immediate response to the report. The de Blasio administration announced Wednesday that DOC is launching a $4.5 million safety and security initiative aimed at addressing violence by inmates against correction officers.
The problems the commission found at the other four jails include inmate escapes, obsolete facilities, guard posts left unstaffed, and overcrowding.