The federal monitor overseeing Rikers Island has warned that the out-of-control jail system is in a “state of emergency” — insisting outside help is needed to overcome “mismanagement” and “prevalent” failings.
“We are gravely concerned that the Department has made no appreciable progress to ameliorate the dangerous conditions in the jails,” monitor Steve Martin wrote in a letter filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, hours before an emergency conference Friday.
“The current state of affairs is nothing short of an emergency posing an immediate threat to the safety and well-being of Inmates and Staff,” Martin warned Judge Laura Swain.
Noting the “long history of systemic mismanagement and dysfunction” within the city’s Department of Correction, Martin said that “conditions in the jails have significantly deteriorated in the past few months.”
So far this year, 12 people have died in custody, five of them by suicide. Reports of violence in intake areas last month were 170 percent higher than the previous August — with stabbings 450 percent higher, the monitor said.
That has revealed a “troubling and accelerated pace of mismanagement of the security operations in the jails,” he wrote.
“The harm flowing to incarcerated individuals and Staff are directly linked to and caused by the Department leadership’s failure to address a wide range of security failures,” he insisted in the letter co-signed with his deputy monitor, Anne Friedberg.
The monitor also blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s planned reforms, including hiring more staff, reducing inmate numbers and fixing damaged doors.
Those plans “have a significant void” and “do not address the ubiquitous mismanagement and prevalent security failures within the jails.”
“Stated bluntly, the City’s and Department’s plans are not sufficient to address the imminent risk of harm to people in custody and Staff flowing from the poor operation of the jails,” Martin wrote.
“This troubling state of affairs certainly calls in to question whether Department leadership possess the level of competency to safely manage the jails,” he warned.
“The Monitoring Team recommends the appointment of an external Security Operations Manager with significant expertise in correctional security,” he wrote, italicizing “external” for emphasis.
His recommendations were submitted late Thursday to be considered in the emergency court hearing Friday.