From violence to squalid conditions that endanger both inmates and corrections officers, Rikers Island has plenty of problems — but at least new arrivals to the correctional facility are being processed faster.
So said Mayor Bill de Blasio at his Tuesday briefing in touting that the Corrections Department is now spending an average of 5 1/2 hours intaking new inmates at Rikers. For weeks, inmate intake had been “a serious, serious concern,” the mayor noted, as a shortage of space and corrections officers had caused large backups in processing — with many inmates waiting up to a full day for completion.
But in recent weeks, amid turmoil in the correctional facility, the mayor ordered the reopening of two shuttered facilities on Rikers Island and shifted NYPD officers into courtrooms to send more corrections officers. The backlog was further reduced through state actions, including Governor Kathy Hochul signing the “Less is More Act,” a parole reform bill that immediately released nearly 200 eligible Rikers Island prisoners.
“Now the intake time is down to 5 1/2 hours, that is the average,” de Blasio said. “The longest wait yesterday was 10 hours. Tremendous improvement, quickly, because they opened up new facilities, added personnel. The situation with the health care facilities improved, but we need to do more.”
The reduced inmate intake time came on a day that de Blasio visited Rikers Island for the first time in about five years. After touring the facility, he acknowledged that further improvements are needed to end the immediate crisis — but that the city needed to remain on schedule toward reducing Rikers’ population and eventually closing it on or about 2026.
“We’re going to fix the immediate problem, but the bigger problem remains,” de Blasio said Tuesday. “We need to close Rikers Island once and for all. We need to get to humane, modern jails so we can rehabilitate people. That plan must keep going and it must keep going on schedule. That’s the big picture we’ve got to stay focused on.”