New York governor orders immediate parole and release of nearly 200 Rikers inmates because of staffing shortage

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NEW YORK, NY- Who knew New York could go from bad to just as bad after the resignation of touchy-feely Andrew Cuomo last month? From all appearances, the state’s new governor may be just as useless as her predecessor.

One of her first actions as governor will be to release 191 detainees from Rikers Island, which has been severely understaffed for months, with some units completely lacking guards, according to rt.com.

Under her “Less is More Act,” individuals who are subject to “technical parole violations” who would normally be locked back up would no longer be incarcerated. Gov. Kathy Hochul says that this is one of the primary contributors to Rikers being overcrowded.

“Parole in this state often becomes a ticket back into jail because of technical violations,” she said.

She explained this could be as simple as “someone caught with a drink or using a substance or missing an appointment.”

While the law doesn’t go into effect until next March, Hochul ordered the parole board to immediately release the 191 individuals on Friday, while moving some 200 Rikers inmates to state prisons over the next week or so hoping it will relieve some of the overcrowding.

Despite those measures, Rikers will remain understaffed at a critical level.

Reports indicate that around 2,700 employees which comprises one-third of the entire staff are unable to work on any given day. The result of this has been that some units are actually being run by the inmates themselves, which not surprisingly has led to an explosion of violence.

When guards do work, they are subject to work long hours, usually double or even triple shifts Since December, the jail has seen 10 inmate suicides, and as mentioned above some units are being run by the criminal inhabitants.

Employees have described the facility as “filthy,” with bodily fluids covering the walls and floors. Correction Department Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi was taken aback by conditions at the jail, stating during a city council hearing last week that the situation was “worse than I imagined.”

Coronavirus is also playing a part in conditions inside the jail, with a reported 65 cases being identified last week. Because of overcrowding in the jail, it is impossible to isolate or quarantine suspected cases, Board of Correction member Dr. Robert Cohen told city council members during the hearing.

Hochul has made a commitment to reduce overcrowding in New York jails and prisons and said that other inmates met “that threshold” of having technically violated parole without committing a separate offense.

The New York Post reported that Hochul called the situation at Rikers “deeply disturbing,” which led her to act ahead of the March 1 implementation of the new law. Hochul claimed the inmates she is ordering released “have served their sentences” for the crimes they committed and “do not need to be incarcerated.”

She said that some 65 percent of the parolees returned back to prison had only committed “a very technical violation” and noted that several Southern states “are ahead of us on this.’

“New York incarcerates more people for parole violations than anywhere in the country,” Hochul said. “That is a point of shame, and it needs to be fixed.”

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In case you missed it, below is a previous article we wrote about Rikers Island. 

DIG DEEPER

NEW YORK CITY, NY – Last year, Mayor Bill De Blasio released scores of prisoners from Rikers Island while blaming the pandemic. This month, he plans to release dozens more of the “worst kind of criminals” because of a shortage of guards.

The second batch of early-release prisoners was supposed to begin on Thursday but has been delayed because of the widespread destruction brought on by Hurricane Ida, according to unnamed law enforcement sources who spoke with the New York Post.

One source said de Blasio would use any excuse to release prisoners from Riker’s Island, the infamous jail de Blasio vowed to close by 2026:

“(Mayor Bill de Blasio])wants to close Rikers and he will use any opportunity to release the prisoners. He is leaving in three-plus months, and he wants to release as many prisoners as he can.”

The new batch of prisoners to be released follows the release of more than 1,500 last year reportedly due to the coronavirus outbreak. The first release lowered the number of prisoners housed in Riker’s to 4,363, the lowest level in 70  years.

The population did not remain low, however, and grew to 5,730 by July, according to Department of Criminal Justice Services data.  Increases in shootings and serious assaults was cited as a contributing factor for the rise.

Mayor de Blasio wants to release more into the city. The law enforcement source said he was concerned:

“There are only the worst kind criminals left in jail – people with gun arrests, shootings, sex crimes. No one is in for shoplifting.”

Corrections officers at the jail have been sounding the alarm for months about staff shortages. The guards have claimed poor working conditions have caused corrections officers to leave, making the situation worse.

Correction Captains’ Association president Pat Ferraiuolo said described the situation as dire:

“It’s worse than at the breaking point. They are the worst they have ever been in the history of Rikers Island.”

The Department of Corrections admitted staff shortages are causing unsafe conditions at the jail, but claimed the shortage was caused by sick guards and unavailable staff.

Around 3,500 out of 8,500 officers had called in sick in July or were medically exempt from working with detainees, the DOC said. Another 2,300, meanwhile, reportedly did not come in at some point in July.

Mayor de Blasio blamed the staff shortages on the pandemic and “absenteeism at an unacceptable level.”

The New York Daily Post reported that two Riker’s units, known as 3 West and 3 North, in the Otis Bantum Correctional Center at Riker’s ran without corrections officers for more than 24 hours last week because of staff shortages.

Terrance Ferguson, better known as hip-hop artist 2 Milly, is serving time at Riker’s for a gun charge. He said that the prisoners were running the jail unit he was in because of staff shortages:

“We are really running the dorm by ourselves. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

De Blasio’s plan to release a second wave of prisoners comes as shootings and other serious assaults have surged in the city.

Reportedly, at least 180 prisoners are being considered for release, although the administration said not all of them will qualify.

Prisoners under consideration for release include Rashaen Powell, 30, who is serving a sentence for three counts of dealing drugs on school grounds. He also jumped bail.

Another prisoner being considered for release is Allen Nimmons, 56, who is a career burglar who has served seven sentences for burglary and is presently incarcerated for parole violations.

Corrections officers feel they are hitting a brick wall and circulated a text message this past weekend calling for a “bang-in,” a term used when the organization wants all corrections officers to call off sick at once to protest working conditions and staffing shortages.

Corrections officers said they are being used by the city and are forced to work “daily triple/quadruple tours,” “unmanned posts” and “no meal breaks.” The text message read:

“We have been taken advantage of for too long. Let’s take our lives back.”

As is typically the case with emergency and vital service “sick outs,” the plan fell apart when correctional officers showed up for work. One guard who was leaving said that if correctional officers called off, he would have just had to stay to work.

The 10-year veteran officer pointed out that the staffing shortage is creating a dangerous situation:

“If you look at the history of prison riots — if you look at Attica — it stems from the same thing: shortage of staff.”

Despite all the warnings, de Blasio still blames the shortages on staff and the pandemic. He plans to continue with the prisoner release as a way to solve the staff crisis and denies the increase in prison population was caused by the rise in crime, blaming the courts for the lack of trials being conducted.

The Mayor also said Wednesday that corrections officers are taking advantage of the pandemic:

“Absenteeism at an unacceptable level.

“And in many cases, unfortunately, it has not been real and justified absenteeism.”

Benny Boscio Jr., The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President, issued a statement Monday attacking the Mayor’s plan to release more prisoners:

“In yet the latest sign that Mayor de Blasio has completely lost his grip on reality, rather than hiring the necessary number of Correction Officers to maintain safety and security in our jails and keep New York City safe, he’s decided to release drug dealers, armed robbers, and other hardened criminals with no concern for public safety.

“Would someone please remind the Mayor that 70% of our inmates are recidivists and will most likely return to our custody by Christmas? New Yorkers should demand that the Mayor release these criminals on the steps of Gracie Mansion instead of their doorsteps!”

He went on to say that the city’s corrections officers knew de Blasio did not care about their safety:

“Correction Officers always knew he didn’t care if his policies resulted in one of us getting killed. Now it’s obvious that he doesn’t care if your family members get killed. This will do nothing to solve our staffing crisis and it will only jeopardize the lives of every single New Yorker!”

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LET Unity
Union boss: NYC Mayor de Blasio “criminally negligent” for dangerous conditions for staff at Riker’s Island

August 30, 2021

 

NEW YORK CITY, NY- According to reports, conditions for correction officers working on New York City’s notorious Rikers Island have deteriorated so significantly over the past year, leaving personnel understaffed, overworked, and vulnerable, that it has become impossible for them to do their jobs.

Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio said that inmate housing arrangements, understaffing of correction officers and lack of support from city officials have contributed to a dangerous work environment for those tasked with protecting the inmates and the facility at large.

He added:

“We’re working 25-plus hours straight, no meal breaks, the conditions of having gang members in the same housing areas – gang affiliated housing, we’re being assaulted with impunity.”

Fox News obtained several videos that show inmates’ violent attacks on correction officers, which sources allege took place on Rikers Island.

The various videos show inmates repeatedly punching or kicking officers in the head and body, and charging them or throwing harmful items in their direction. Boscio added:

“Broken bones, stitches, stabbings. Officers are getting stabbed. Twenty-six stitches to the face, broken orbital, broken noses. We’re being seriously assaulted.”

Boscio confirmed that the number of inmates being held on violent felony charges have jumped by 23 percent in roughly the past year. 

The New York Post described how Rikers Island inmates are damaging property, answering phones and gallivanting around the facility amid ongoing understaffing concerns that have caused some areas of the jail to be left unsupervised.

At the time, 26 correction officers were working quadruple shifts, 35 were on triple shifts and 30 patrol posts across the facility were unmanned as the jail faces a continued staffing shortage. 

A spokesperson for the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) told Fox News that the agency consists of roughly 8,500 total uniformed personnel. The DOC also noted that the department has unlimited sick leave.

The department saw a 300 percent jump in the number of officers who were skipping out on work without calling in July 2021 compared to July 2020.

Under Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi, who took office in June, the DOC is implementing new sick leave protocols, hiring 400 more officers and working with a federal monitor to adequately deploy officers to posts.

Other developments include the processing of employment candidates, expanding the correction officer exam filing period, and meeting with local judges and prosecutors regarding the department’s violent inmates. Schiraldi said in a statement:

“His agency was deeply concerned about the safety of our staff, medical staff, and incarcerated people in our facilities and are working hard to improve conditions.”

The statement added:

“We have been taking extensive measures to encourage staff to return to work, to relieve those who have been heroically working extra shifts to compensate, and to make this an environment where any parent would feel like their own son or daughter was safe working or living here.”

Boscio points blame at New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, for “turning his back on us.”  He added:

“At this point, I feel like the mayor has been criminally negligent. He’s so wrapped up in his ideology of closing Rikers that he doesn’t even have an answer for the violence that we’re dealing with.”

He stated:

“It’s impossible for us to do our jobs, defend ourselves being that overworked, to defend other inmates.”

Boscio confirmed that de Blasio, who is a Democrat, has not visited Rikers Island in “over four years.” After a major push by de Blasio and other New York City Democrats, lawmakers voted in October 2019 in favor of a plan to shut down Rikers and instead build new detention centers.

However, Rikers is not expected to officially close until 2026. Boscio said that in the meantime, “it’s like nobody cares,” adding:

“I feel like they’ve washed their hands of us.” 

 

 

 

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