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Advocates rally for feds to take control of Rikers Island, argue city can’t ‘keep people alive’ there

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By: Dean Moses via AMNY

New Yorkers marched through the rain in Lower Manhattan on Thursday to demand the feds take control of Rikers Island as they charge Mayor Adams has “failed” to improve the penal island during his administration.

New Yorkers marched through the rain in Lower Manhattan on Thursday to demand the feds take control of Rikers Island as they charge Mayor Adams has “failed” to improve the penal island during his administration.

Members of the Katal Center—a community resource group that organized the rally—along with former inmates and elected officials assembled outside City Hall before marching to Foley Square to express their outrage about the conditions at the controversial facility. They also made clear their anger about the island’s mounting death toll that has climbed to seven in 2023 alone.

Many speakers were extremely critical of the city’s management of the facility and listed a number of demands.

“The Mayor of the City of New York no longer has the ability to run Rikers Island. He has failed the people of Rikers Island, the families of the people on Rikers Island, he has failed the people of New York City,” City Council member Lincoln Restler, a progressive who represents northwest Brooklyn, railed. “The Department of Correction cannot fulfill its most basic responsibility: keeping people alive.”

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

The rally came while a hearing was being held in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to determine whether Adams would be permitted to maintain control of the island or whether a federal monitor would get to oversee it, something Adams has repeatedly pushed against. The judge, however, did not render a decision Thursday, instead setting another conference for Nov. 28.

Despite the high death rate at Rikers, the mayor has consistently defended Commissioner of DOC Louis Molina, arguing that he has improved conditions at the jail. This is in conjunction with conservative Queens Councilman Robert Holden stating that the jail has a “great atmosphere” after visiting it. Holden was part of a group of councilmembers, who are part of what is known as the Common Sense Caucus, who toured the facility Wednesday and expressed satisfaction with its condition.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who joined those toting signs in Foley Square on Aug. 10, scolded Holden’s words, insinuating that it had discriminatory connotations. Williams said that New Yorkers are dealing with representatives who believe that the 80% of Black and Brown individuals awaiting trial on Rikers Island are in a “great environment.”

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