The crisis at Rikers Island goes from tragedy to farce


On Friday, federal monitor Steven Martin argued in court for hours that the Rikers Island jails are in a “state of emergency,” with outside help needed to turn things around. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s own Rikers plans, he warned, “do not address the ubiquitous mismanagement and prevalent security failures.” But since progressives have already made use of private contractors impossible, the crisis seems sure to bleed on.

The main progressive “solution” right now is to simply to close the jail down, pretending that crime does not exist. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez toured the complex Tuesday, then demanded the release of all 5,000-plus inmates — and no matter that, in the wake of the no-bail law, everyone still in custody is at least charged with serious, violent offenses.

Springing some inmates under the new Less Is More law, and transferring others to state jails, seems to be the most Gov. Kathy Hochul is doing: She certainly doesn’t want to take over this hot potato when she’s eyeing next year’s elections.

De Blasio, meanwhile, now says he’ll visit Rikers this week, since he’s all done with apparently more important duties like the Met Gala and the Royal Sussex visit.

For now, per a memo obtained by The Post, his Department of Correction is offering bonuses to prison guards: an extra $75 for working into a third shift and $150 if they work into the second half of the shift — retroactive to April 1. The mayor also means to move 100 NYPD cops into the courts, freeing up correction officers for Rikers duty, and is looking to hire more correction officers.

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Mayor Bill de Blasio now says he will visit Rikers Island this week.
Matthew McDermott

Sadly, the monitor’s call to hire outside security would run up against a previous progressive victory: a 2002 state law that bans any “privatization” at city jails. De Blasio has actually sought to hire a private contractor to handle perimeter security, only to have the bidder back out on learning of that law. Maybe Judge Laura Swain, who’s hearing the monitor’s suit, can find an excuse to waive it during this crisis?

Sadly, no one’s asking her to do anything about reversing or waiving the recent softening of jail-discipline rules that emboldened the most violent detainees and further demoralized the guard force as COVID hit.

The best idea may come from Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-Bx): He wrote a letter (co-signed by all city House Democrats) asking President Joe Biden for federal intervention. Bringing in the feds, after all, has the added advantage that no local politician will actually have to take responsibility for the deadly chaos wrought by progressive “reforms.”





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