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Monitor urges contempt proceedings begin against New York City over Rikers jail conditions

July 10, 2023 Associated Press
Rikers Island complex
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Contempt proceedings should be initiated against New York City over its failure to meet court-ordered reforms meant to stabilize the troubled Rikers Island jail complex, a federal monitor recommended on Monday.

The court-appointed monitor made the recommendation in a filing in Manhattan federal court, where a judge is currently considering a federal takeover of the city-run jail system.

The report was issued just days after another monitor found the jail complex forced detainees to live in damp, fetid quarters infested with mold, vermin and other “generally unsanitary” conditions.

According to the latest report, the city has failed to address key problems at the complex, including the risk of violence to those in custody, despite eight years of monitoring since a consent judgment went into effect and following the first year of an “Action Plan” that was supposed to speed improvements.

“Many of the initiatives required by the Action Plan remain incomplete or have not been addressed, and worse, there has been a disturbing level of regression in a number of essential practices,” the report said. “Compounding the concerns about the overall lack of progress is what appears to be the Department’s inability or unwillingness to identify (and therefore address) the objective evidence regarding the pervasive dysfunction and harm that continues to occur daily in the jails.”

The monitor said the pace of reform has stagnated rather than accelerated in key areas, providing no meaningful relief for detainees or staff from violence and the unnecessary or excessive use of force.

The report comes as Mayor Eric Adams continues to argue that his administration should remain in control of the jail complex, citing the pandemic as a reason that Rikers Island has suffered in the past few years.

The possibility of a federal takeover, an extraordinary step, follows a monitor’s report that uncovered a pattern of disturbing incidents — including detainee deaths and gruesome injuries — that correction officials failed to report.

Inquiries to Mayor Adams and the Department of Correction were not immediately returned.

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