Hearing in Manhattan federal court to decide Mayor Adams’ control over Rikers Island

August 9, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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After a July that saw four people die on Rikers Island, a hearing on Thursday at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan might reshape its future. In the Southern District courtroom it will be determined if Mayor Eric Adams maintains control over the beleaguered jail complex or if it transfer its management to an independent federal overseer.

Before this crucial hearing, a coalition—comprising community groups, impacted individuals, elected representatives, and advocacy organizations—will assemble at City Hall at 12:30 pm. They will then march to Foley Square, rallying at 1 pm.

Since Mayor Adams assumed office, a shocking tally of 26 incarcerated individuals have lost their lives in city jails. Alarmingly, four of these deaths occurred this past July alone.

Those recent deaths have brought the spotlight back to the issue and has cast Rikers in a dim light, focusing on the deteriorating conditions and prevalent chaos. Consequently, a report recommended Judge Laura Taylor Swain consider holding the Adams administration accountable for its stagnancy in implementing reforms and improving conditions. For the first time, Commissioner Louis Molina of the NYC Department of Correction has been summoned for the hearing.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The call for a federal overseer for Rikers is gaining traction. Recently, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams voiced his support for such an appointment. He joins a growing list of supporters, which includes prominent figures like NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams and NYC Comptroller Brad Lander, among others.

Thursday’s rally is expected to witness firsthand accounts from those deeply affected by the Rikers crisis, alongside commentary from elected officials. Together, they aim to amplify the demand for Rikers’ closure and emphasize the potential necessity of federal intervention until such closure is realized.

The advocacy for a federal receiver at Rikers has begun resonating across party lines. The Brennan Center for Justice encapsulates the sentiment aptly: when local or state governments consistently fail to rejuvenate struggling public institutions, a federal court might need to step in with a reformative agenda.

This broad-based consensus is underscored by the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, which has documented increasing support for a federal receiver at Rikers. Their list encapsulates a diverse range of officials, community groups, and editorial pages, all echoing the sentiment that urgent measures at Rikers are non-negotiable.


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