DOJ: “Rikers Island Has Been In Crisis For Years…We Cannot Wait Any Longer”

Photos: YouTube Screenshots\DOJ

The ongoing humanitarian crisis inside New York City’s Rikers Island jail has forced the Department of Justice to announce their intention to intervene to address the human rights catastrophe and the deteriorating death spiral inside the institution.

The United States Attorney’s Office, in the Southern District of New York released the following:


Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced his Office’s intention to seek the appointment of a receiver to address the ongoing risk of harm to both incarcerated individuals and Department of Correction (“DOC”) Staff.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Rikers Island has been in crisis for years. This is a collective failure with deep roots, spanning multiple mayoral administrations and DOC commissioners. But after eight years of trying every tool in the toolkit, we cannot wait any longer for substantial progress to materialize. That is why my Office will seek a court-appointed receiver to address the conditions on Rikers Island.”

In 2015, the United States entered into a consent decree with the City of New York and the DOC to address violations of the constitutional rights of incarcerated individuals at Rikers Island (the “Consent Decree”). The Consent Decree required DOC to develop and implement a wide range of reforms to reduce the level of violence in the jails and ensure the safety and well-being of people in custody as well as corrections officers.

Over the past eight years, this Office has worked diligently with the Monitor appointed pursuant to the Consent Decree and all parties to address the ongoing unsafe conditions on Rikers Island. After multiple remedial orders and an Action Plan that has been in place for over a year, on July 10, 2023, the Monitor found that despite some progress in certain areas, DOC has not made “substantial and demonstrable progress in implementing the reforms, initiatives, plans, systems, and practices as outlined in the Action Plan” and “there has not been a substantial reduction in the risk of harm currently facing incarcerated individuals and Department staff.”

In light of these findings, this Office has decided to pursue contempt proceedings and seek additional relief from the Court, including the appointment of a receiver, to address the ongoing risk of harm to both incarcerated individuals and DOC staff. If appointed, the receiver would report to the Court and have independent authority to take necessary steps to comply with core provisions of the Consent Decree and other Court-ordered relief.

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