New York City’s Rikers Island, facing possible federal takeover, found violating safety standards

Jul 6, 2023, 1:10 PM

FILE - The Rikers Island jail complex stands with the Manhattan skyline in the background on June 2...

FILE - The Rikers Island jail complex stands with the Manhattan skyline in the background on June 20, 2014, in New York. A new report finds widespread unsanitary conditions at Rikers Island. It comes as a federal judge is weighing a receivership for the notorious New York City jail complex. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Facing the looming prospect of a federal takeover, New York City’s troubled Rikers Island jail complex is failing to meet a court-ordered requirement to properly clean and maintain its facilities, according to a new report issued by a federal monitor.

In a progress report released Thursday, the monitor described a decrepit jail complex where detainees are forced to live in damp, fetid quarters infested with mold, vermin and other “generally unsanitary” conditions.

Despite some progress toward collaboration, the monitor –- a court-created body known as the Office of Compliant Conditions –- found thousands of open violations inside the jail, ranging from “chronic pooling” of water, clogged vents limiting air flow and the persistent smell of sewage. One detainee complained his cell was full of mice “because there’s no dust pan on unit to properly pick up the trash,”

The report also faulted jail leaders for failing to maintain key infrastructure, including a sprinkler system that was out of service during an April fire that injured five people. The broken system was only disclosed after the monitor inquired about the extent of the damage, according to the report.

The findings represent the latest setback for the notorious city-run jail system, and could undercut Mayor Eric Adams’ argument that his administration should remain in control of the complex at a moment when a federal judge is considering putting Rikers Island in receivership.

The possibility of a federal takeover, an extraordinary step, follows a report from a separate monitor that uncovered a pattern of disturbing incidents — including detainee deaths and gruesome injuries –- that correction officials failed to report.

Mayor Adams has defended his stewardship of Rikers Island, arguing that his administration is working to stabilize a jail system that spiraled into chaos during the pandemic.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Correction said the jail’s facilities were cleaned three times daily, adding the agency was in the process of updating its internal tracking procedures. Correctional leaders are also working with a fire safety consultant to enhance its safety procedures, the spokesperson said.

The latest report stems from a 1975 class action lawsuit challenging “environmental conditions” inside Rikers Island. As part of an agreement, the city agreed to meet certain requirements around sanitary practices, ventilation systems, and fire safety.

The monitor has frequently found the city in violation of those orders, leading to admonishments and promises of reform. In the latest monitoring period, which covered the first four months of this year, “the only aspect of the Court’s order that the Department substantially complied with is providing a sink,” according to the monitor.

Lauren Stephens-Davidowitz, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society, said the lack of urgency around the issue was further proof the city was ill-equipped to care for its incarcerated population.

“There’s a disregard for the health and well being of the people living at Rikers Island,” she said. “The report describes completely unacceptable, dangerous and disgusting conditions in a place that over 6,000 people call home.”

United States News

File - The Southern University Human Jukebox marching band warms up before the 2023 National Battle...

Associated Press

Federal student loan payments are starting again. Here’s what you need to know

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal student loan borrowers will need to start making payments again this month after a three-year-plus pause due to the pandemic. You should expect a bill that lays out how much you have to pay each month at least 21 days before your due date. It’s likely that most borrowers have […]

15 minutes ago

FILE - Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., appears before the House Rules Committee to propose amendments to t...

Associated Press

Gaetz says he will seek to oust McCarthy as speaker this week and calls for new House leadership

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Matt Gaetz said Sunday he will try to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a fellow Republican, from his leadership position this week after McCarthy relied on Democratic support to pass legislation that avoided a government shutdown. Gaetz, a longtime McCarthy nemesis, said McCarthy was in “brazen, material breach” of agreements he […]

35 minutes ago

FILE - Chester County, Pa. election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots at West Chester Un...

Associated Press

Pennsylvania governor’s voter registration change draws Trump’s ire in echo of 2020 election clashes

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Donald Trump has a familiar target in his sights: Pennsylvania’s voting rules. He never stopped attacking court decisions on mail-in ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic, falsely claiming it as a reason for his 2020 loss in the crucial battleground state. Now, the former Republican president is seizing on a decision by […]

2 hours ago

FILE - The U.S. Supreme Court is seen, Wednesday, Aug 30, 2023, in Washington. The new term of the ...

Associated Press

The Supreme Court’s new term starts Monday. Here’s what you need to know

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court seems a bit quieter than in recent years, as the justices begin a new term. Major cases await, as they always do, including several challenges to regulatory agencies and efforts to regulate social media platforms. But nothing yet seems on par with conservative-driven decisions overturning Roe v. Wade’s right […]

3 hours ago

Run by a private firm hired by the city, migrants stay in a makeshift shelter at O'Hare Internation...

Associated Press

Chicago is keeping hundreds of migrants at airports while waiting on shelters and tents

CHICAGO (AP) — Hidden behind a heavy black curtain in one of the nation’s busiest airports is Chicago’s unsettling response to a growing population of asylum-seekers arriving by plane. Hundreds of migrants, from babies to the elderly, live inside a shuttle bus center at O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 1. They sleep on cardboard pads on […]

9 hours ago

FILE - A sign is displayed on May 27, 2021, at a memorial in Tacoma, Wash., where Manuel "Manny" El...

Associated Press

Washington officers on trial in deadly arrest of Manny Ellis, a case reminiscent of George Floyd

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Police wrestle the unarmed Black man to the sidewalk. One officer pushes his face into the pavement as he pleads in vain: “Can’t breathe.” Witnesses capture the scene at a dark intersection on their cellphones — one yells, “Hey! Stop! Oh my God, stop hitting him!” — and the medical examiner […]

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Sanderson Ford...

Sanderson Ford

Sanderson Ford congratulates D-backs’ on drive to great first half of 2023

The Arizona Diamondbacks just completed a red-hot first half of the major league season, and Sanderson Ford wants to send its congratulations to the ballclub.



Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

5 mental health myths you didn’t know were made up

Helping individuals understand mental health diagnoses like obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder or generalized anxiety disorder isn’t always an easy undertaking. After all, our society tends to spread misconceptions about mental health like wildfire. This is why being mindful about how we talk about mental health is so important. We can either perpetuate misinformation about already […]

New York City’s Rikers Island, facing possible federal takeover, found violating safety standards