Rikers Island, Four Upstate Prisons Named the 'Worst' in New York: Report - NBC New York

Rikers Island, Four Upstate Prisons Named the 'Worst' in New York: Report

The study highlights overcrowding and staff shortages as some of the contributing issues

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    Rikers Island, Four Upstate Prisons Named the 'Worst' in New York: Report
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    Rikers Island jail complex stands under a blanket of snow on January 5, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images).

    What to Know

    • The Commission of Correction sent Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature a report Wednesday identifying the most problematic local jails

    • Rikers Island and four upstate jails as the worst jails in New York

    • NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an agreement to move forward on closing Rikers Island and replacing it with a borough-based jail system

    A New York state agency deemed Rikers Island and four upstate jails as the worst jails in the state.

    The Commission of Correction sent Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature a report Wednesday identifying the most problematic local correctional facilities.

    In order to compile the report, the Commission conducted on-site inspections, interviews, and investigations at a number of local facilities.

    The study looked at facilities' infastracture, staffing, violent incidents, hospitilizations and suicides, among other criteria.

    According to the report, the five local facilities determined as the “worst offenders,” after years of review, are: the New York City Rikers Island Facilities, the Greene County Jail, the Erie County Holding Center and Correctional Facility, the Dutchess County Jail and the Onondaga County Justice Center and Penitentiary.

    “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 reports.

    In a statement, the chief counsel to Cuomo, Alphonso David, said in a statement that the governor's administration “will demand focus and an expeditious resolution to these systemic, unconscionable and illegal conditions.”

    Among the issues plaguing Rikers Island Facilities, the report notes “managerial failures, significant structural problems, regulatory compliance failures, identified deficiencies that remain unaddressed, and unabated harm to both staff and inmates alike.”

    Though the Commission attempted to assist Rikers management in addressing these issues, the efforts have not been successful, “further highlighting the need for closure of all jail facilities located on Rikers Island,” according to the report.

    New York City Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Corey Johnson announced an agreement Wednesday to move forward on closing Rikers Island and creating a smaller, safer and fairer borough-based jail system, which includes a new Bronx facility in Mott Haven that was previously used by the NYPD.

    De Blasio revealed last year that he intended to close the Rikers complex, although it would take a decade.

    David said the 10-year timeline was "wholly unacceptable and repugnant to federal and state constitutional principles." 

    According to the report, the Green County Jail, built in the early 1900s, has outlived its usefulness. Though local officials are aware of the need for a new jail, no progress has been made in constructing a new building, the report says, adding the biggest “concern remains with the management and operation of the current facility which, in recent years, has deteriorated to the detriment of inmate and staff safety.”

    Managerial shortcomings at the Erie County Sheriff’s Office have contributed to serious incidents — including inmate escapes, assaults and deaths — at the Erie County Holding Center and Erie County Correctional Facility. The report says that the Commission has already taken action against the Erie County Sheriff for violating law and compulsory state regulations.

    The Commission reports that the issue of overcrowding has plagued the Dutchess County Jail for decades, “resulting in annual expenditures of millions of dollars to board overflow inmates to other county jails, some located more than two hours from Poughkeepsie.”

    Though the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office has taken over control of the Onondaga County Justice Center and Penitentiary this year from the county’s Department of Correction, overcrowding at the facility still needs to be addressed. The Commission also found that officer posts have routinely been abandoned because of the administration’s inability to mandate overtime.

    In the report, the Commission also noted corrective actions that the jails can take to alleviate the issues highlighted.

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