NYC Board of Correction Remains Hush Despite Anarchy at Rikers Jail Complex - The Jewish Voice
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Monday, January 30, 2023

NYC Board of Correction Remains Hush Despite Anarchy at Rikers Jail Complex

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By: Serach Nissim

The notorious jail system at Rikers Island seems to be ailing. Clearly, since the pandemic, things have gotten out of hand, and neglect and mismanagement coupled together to create a chaotic environment for the imprisoned as well as the correction officers. Besides for the independent reports leaked to news outlets, the rising number of deaths at the jail complex should be enough to raise the alarm. Despite this, oddly, there has been no response from the one agency which was created by the city specifically to oversee conditions behind bars— the Board of Correction. As reported by the NY Times, the only job this organization has is to monitor and inspect the city’s jails –even daily- to make sure that those behind bars are treated humanely.

However, all we have heard from this organization is a loud hush. Even as the death count in city jails rose to 14 this year, the board issued no reports, public notices, open letters or censures towards the Department of Correction for any violations. Even in April, as board acknowledged “horrible” conditions while investigating a death, there was no action.

Over the summer, things got even worst, with reports that the system was understaffed and there were staffers doing double or even triple shifts, and inmates were reportedly running amok, with beatings reported. Surprisingly, the board canceled its July meeting and didn’t reschedule for August, saying it could not gather enough of the members together to meet the required quorum.

As per the Times, there certainly appear to be violations at the jail—even personal hygiene rules and regulations about how long inmates can be in intake. “You’re the oversight!” said Dr. Victoria A. Phillips, who works with the Urban Justice Center. “Oversee this work. Make sure it happens. Please do it, before someone else dies.”

The Board of Correction, created in 1957, has made great strides in the past, ushering important reforms, including specialized mental health units, suicide prevention programs and the elimination of solitary confinement for younger prisoners. In Mayor de Blasio’s first year in office, the board was given increased funding, but the pandemic brought budget cuts. It also brought the emergency suspension of minimum standards — including requirements to provide detainees with lawyers and religious services, and halted the board members’ daily visits to the jails. This Spring, Mayor de Blasio reversed most of the budget cuts for the board and authorized funding for two positions that would focus on jail deaths— a death investigator and an independent auditor on suicides. Still, those roles are yet to be filled.

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