Hoping to stave off a federal takeover of Rikers Island, Mayor Eric Adams signed an executive order Thursday creating an interagency task force to coordinate and implement solutions needed to support the New York City Department of Corrections (DOC).
Executive Order 16 follows the apparent suicide of Rikers Island inmate on Saturday – which has marked the most recent inmate death in the prison this year. The order will serve to increase resources where needed within the DOC and provide the Mayor with real-time information regarding the efforts.
“Rikers Island has been mired in dysfunction and plagued by parallel crises for decades. We cannot — and will not — allow that to continue,” said Adams on May 12. “Since taking office, and working with the monitoring team, we have seen reductions in use of force and assaults on staff, increased searches for weapons and contraband, and fewer officers out on sick leave, but we must go further. This interagency task force puts the full weight of city government behind fully and immediately addressing these challenges. To the people in our care and those officers and non-uniformed personnel working there: I have your back. The city will not rest until this dysfunction is rooted out, these reforms are implemented, and the people in our care and working on the island are safe.”
The goal of the executive order is to efficiently implement reforms needed to keep those in custody as well as correctional officers safe as well as build a functional, safe and humane jail system.
“This vital support from City Hall finally gives this agency the help it needs to bring safety and security to our jail system and fulfill the requirements of the consent judgment in both spirit and letter,” said DOC Commissioner Louis A. Molina. “I am looking forward to working with the dedicated and talented partners at our sister agencies. Together, we are going to transform our jail system into a model of safety and humanity.”
The task force will be chaired by Chief Counsel Brendan McGuire and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phillip Banks, and will include representatives from the DOC, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the New York City Law Department, the New York City Office of Labor Relations, the New York City Office of Management and Budget, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services, and the New York City Department of Design and Construction. Additional agencies will be added as needed.
“Dysfunctional government and agencies operating within silos is an unacceptable excuse for the dangerous conditions that have persisted on Rikers for years,” said Deputy Mayor Banks. “This task force, bolstered by the full backing of City Hall, will enhance communications among agencies that have historically hindered past attempts at progress. We will reform Rikers, we will build safer jails, and, together, we will build a safer city for all New Yorkers.”
The task force will meet weekly to discuss concrete, immediate action needed to resolve issues within Rikers quickly as identified by the Nunez monitoring team and will seek to address any and all issues related to the implementation plan and the concerns of the court, the monitoring team, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and the Nunez plaintiffs. Additionally, the task force will ensure that every relevant city agency prioritizes all Rikers-related matters brought to their attention and cooperates fully.
“To adequately address the parallel crises facing Rikers, we must coordinate a swift and immediate response from across city government,” said McGuire. “We cannot allow the same legal and bureaucratic hurdles that have prevented meaningful change for decades to stand in our way any longer. This task force will be laser-focused on cutting through red tape and overcoming those hurdles to deliver safer jails for all.”