Mayor Bill de Blasio still could not say when he’ll visit the chaotic and dangerous Rikers Island Wednesday, as advocates and politicians ripped the “missing in action” mayor for not touring the troubled lockup.
“Rikers is a citywide emergency we all share,” Darren Mack of the Jail Action Coalition told The Post. “The mayor needs to see this for himself to truly understand it, and he must take responsibility for it.”
Jullian Harris-Calvin, director of the Greater Justice New York program at Vera Institute of Justice, fumed about de Blasio’s “maddening” decision to not yet visit the jail faculties during the recent crisis.
“It’s been 12 deaths in less than a year on his watch. How could any leader not go? ” she wondered.
“The crisis is of his administration’s making. It’s maddening,” Harris-Calvin added. “We have a full-blown humanitarian crisis in our jails, and he is not surprisingly missing in action.”
De Blasio has not been on Rikers Island — where about 6,000 people are currently detained, mostly before their trials — during his second and final term in office. The mayor last toured the facilities in June 2017.
“The mayor and governor’s refusal to see these conditions in person is at this point a denial of responsibility – and an abdication of duty by a mayor who hasn’t visited in his entire second term,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams in a prepared statement. “Any confidence in the mayor to lead through an emergency exacerbated by his inaction is evaporating by the hour.”
On Wednesday, the mayor again promised again to at some point see the conditions for himself “when it’s time” while like he has as he previously, declined to specify when that occasion would come.
“What I’ve said is clear: I will be going to Rikers,” de Blasio said when asked by The Post during a press conference about why he hasn’t gone to the out-of-control jail even as several other elected officials have in recent weeks. “When it’s time for a visit, I’ll definitely visit.”
“The real issue to me is what I’m working on constantly each day … is the changes we need to make right now.”
Also Wednesday, the mayor promised to by next month put a stop to the recent practice of officers at the short-staffed Rikers facilities working 24 hours straight.
“We’re going to end the triple shifts,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to end the triple shifts in October”
“In the meantime, anyone who works one gets a bonus.“
Additionally, the mayor vowed to speed up the inmate processing procedure.
“Intake has to happen in less than 24 hours,” he said. “We’re going to drive that number down constantly.”
“We’re getting most inmates through the intake process in less than 16 hours,” he added. “We will move heaven and earth to make sure that number goes down.”
Shortly after the mayor detailed his latest in a series of Rikers reforms, the Department of Correction announced that another city detainee died — the 12th person to die in Big Apple jails this year.
Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa declared that the dozen deaths means it’s time for the mayor to see the conditions at the lockup for himself.
“If you have 12 inmates that have died in your care and in your custody, Bill de Blasio, what kind of a human being are you that you would not even want to visit what is the scene of the deaths?” the Guardian Angels founder fumed. “He won’t come to Rikers Island. He refuses to visit Rikers Island that he is responsible for.”
“It’s chaos. It’s a disaster. It’s bad for the inmates and it’s bad for the correctional officers.”
Sliwa wasn’t the only one bothered by the state of affairs at the Big Apple complex.
After observing Rikers Island on Tuesday, Attorney General Letitia James said she was “disturbed” by what she saw during a tour of the lockup with top prosecutors from the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, pledging to take action.
“Today, I visited Rikers Island with District Attorneys Clark, Katz, and Gonzalez, and I was deeply disturbed by what we saw. For years, Rikers has been plagued by dysfunction, neglect, and violence, and it’s clear we’ve reached a breaking point,” she said in a prepared statement. “These conditions have led to an unprecedented and devastating number of deaths, and action is desperately needed.”
James added, “I am examining all of my office’s legal options to immediately address this dire situation.”
During a rally outside City Hall, a state lawmaker labeled the jailhouse “an island for death and decay.
“This is beyond just a national disgrace; this is an international emergency,” Assemblywoman Phara Souffrant Forrest said Wednesday morning. “What I saw when I went to Rikers Island, it was an island for death and decay.”
Her account came after lawmakers on Sept. 13. witnessed a detainee attempt to kill himself under the “hellish” conditions at the city complex.
“A man called me over and pointed to someone who jumped up on the bars and tried to use a bedsheet to kill themselves,” Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas (D-Queens) said at the time.
In recent weeks, deaths and disorder at Rikers have spurred calls to get lockup under control. As de Blasio rolled out an emergency plan to improve matters, he has ascribed blame for the dangerous environment on both the COVID-19 pandemic and AWOL jail guards and others who fake sick.
One Republican lawmaker blamed left-wing members of the Democratic Party for the crisis.
“This is a man-made catastrophe caused by radical ideas from progressive Democrats and the people who took them seriously enough to vote for them,” Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) told The Post on Wednesday. “That’s where the blame lies.”
Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks and Morgan Grenz