The hearing was called to get an update on the Rikers Island Interagency Task Force, which Adams set up in May, but Brendan McGuire, the mayor’s chief adviser, said many of the details of what the task force was working on could not be disclosed. discussed publicly, and the task force would not issue public reports. He said the group’s main role was to support the implementation of the so-called action plan that a federal judge ordered the city to improve conditions at the facility.
The judge, Laura Swain, has given the city at least until November to make those changes before considering a possible federal takeover or receivership of Rikers. Lawyers for those detained in Rikers have called for a takeover, and federal prosecutors have also suggested the possibility. But Adams resists such a move.
One of the issues that has led to readmission calls is the fact that thousands of inmates’ medical appointments are missed each month, leading to a judge last month denigrating the Department of Correction for violating a court order to provide proper medical care. grant.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Councilor Carlina Rivera asked about the possibility of creating “floating emergency triage medical teams” to deal with those missing appointments. McGuire referred the question to Molina, but Rivera did not contact Molina and no answers were given.
Another issue that was not mentioned was the fact that a member of the Board of Corrections recently claimed that the current shooting facility at Rikers is filthy, crowded and has no operable bathrooms so people urinate on the floor. The board member, Bobby Cohen, also said there are not enough staff to scan people for weapons and contraband when they enter Rikers.
Those allegations caught the attention of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and Carolyn Maloney, who wrote a letter to Molina and McGuire on Monday requesting that they be briefed on the work of their task force within two weeks.
“We are concerned that there are currently no Task Force members specifically committed to ensuring that the mental and physical health of those detained at the facility is properly considered and prioritized,” they wrote. “This is especially important in light of recent reports of ‘terrifying’ and ‘chaotic’ conditions at the shooting facility at Rikers, with detainees packed in ‘tight filthy pens, urinating on the floor’.”
As Council members took their turn on Tuesday, outrage against the Adams administration over the Rikers crisis was left to public comment period after McGuire and Molina ended their testimonies.
“Nothing we’ve heard this morning — very few facts — indicates that the administration understands the gravity of the situation on Rikers Island,” said Mary Lynne Werlwas, attorney for the Legal Aid Society, which filed the lawsuit that led to the creation of the Rikers federal monitor. “People are still dying at a rate unmatched in other city prisons. What we heard this morning was extremely disappointing, extremely defensive.”
Kelsey De Avila, of Brooklyn Defender Services, claimed that one of their clients was recently raped in his housing unit, but the DOC did not even respond to his attorney’s request to hand him over.
“Clearly there is no sense of urgency within this department, nor is this agency capable of protecting people,” she said.
And Julia Solomons, a social worker with the Bronx Defenders, said something worse was going on: “Government testimony today made it clear that the task force’s work is [Department of Correction] as an agency, and not at all to protect those under its care.”