Rikers Island Drama: Union Backs Adams vs. Federal Rule!

Rikers Island Drama: Union Backs Adams vs. Federal Rule!

The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association is standing firmly behind Mayor Eric Adams in his effort to prevent a federal court takeover of Rikers Island, arguing that the violence-ridden jail would only become more perilous under external control. Lynelle Maginley-Liddie, the Correction Commissioner, has demonstrated her commitment to implementing court-ordered reforms at Rikers since her appointment in December by Adams, as highlighted in legal filings submitted on April 2. The union contended that placing Rikers under the jurisdiction of a court-appointed “receiver” would leave the Department of Correction in a state of limbo, labeling the move as regressive.

The call for a federal court takeover was initiated by Manhattan US Attorney Damien Williams and the Legal Aid Society, who argued that such intervention is necessary due to the city’s alleged failure to enact essential changes to reduce instances of excessive force by correction officers towards inmates. The union vehemently opposed this move, emphasizing that it would lead to chaos, undo recent progress, worsen staffing shortages, and damage morale among officers.

Furthermore, the union asserted that Rikers’ current population of 5,600 inmates is notably more violent than in 2015 when the city endorsed a landmark settlement plan, attributing this increase in violence partially to a higher number of mentally ill individuals in custody. The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association raised concerns over the escalating risks associated with the potential federal intervention.

Notably, the correction officer workforce has experienced a 35% decline since 2020, dwindling to 5,700 employees due to hiring freezes. The union commended Maginley-Liddie for her relentless efforts in recruiting new officers since assuming her role, emphasizing the critical importance of maintaining adequate staffing levels to ensure the safety and security of correctional facilities.

In light of the existing settlement agreement facilitated by a court-appointed monitor, which aimed to address longstanding allegations of correction officers employing excessive force, the city pledged to undertake comprehensive reforms. However, Williams requested Manhattan federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain to transfer control of Rikers to an independent authority in response to perceived stagnation in policy changes aimed at curbing violence within the Department of Correction under the leadership of former Commissioner Louis Molina.

Judge Swain is expected to rule on the receivership motion as early as July, with the outcome carrying significant implications for the future administration of Rikers Island and the ongoing efforts to enhance safety and accountability within the correctional system.

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