A federal judge endorsed the city’s Rikers action plan to reform the troubled jail facility and pushed off a potential federal takeover until at least November, according to a court filing released Tuesday.
“This action plan represents a way to move forward with concrete measures now to address the ongoing crisis at Rikers Island,” wrote Judge Laura Taylor Swain, the chief district judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Swain warned the city could still face further consequences if officials do “not fulfill their commitments and demonstrate their ability to make urgently needed changes.”
Federal judge endorses @DOCCommish action plan, writing “This action plan represents a way to move forward with concrete measures now to address the ongoing crisis at Rikers Island.” This will put off any movement towards receivership until at least November pic.twitter.com/7TuEWkO6dZ— Courtney Gross (@courtneycgross) June 14, 2022
The city’s 26-page plan, filed in May, detailed how the Department of Correction would tackle Rikers’ staffing crisis, reorganize jail leadership, and improve safety for a facility that has seen 22 inmate deaths since January 2021.
Mayor Eric Adams called the decision a “vote of confidence” in correction commissioner Louis Molina.
“As the plan makes clear and as the court has agreed, we have a strategy to aggressively untangle the dysfunction that has plagued the jails and set them on a path of real, enduring reform,” Adams said in a statement. “To the people in our care and to those officers and non-uniformed personnel working there: Know that I have your back and that the whole of city government has your back.”
“We will not rest until the dysfunction on Rikers is rooted out, these reforms are implemented, and the people in our care and working on the island are safe around the clock,” the mayor added.
A federal monitor — who oversees the jail as part of a years long class-action lawsuit — previously called conditions on Rikers a crisis. In a letter to the court last week, the monitor suggested more needed to be done to turn around the troubled jail complex.
The monitoring team wrote: “While the Action Plan certainly is a viable pathway forward, the Monitoring Team must acknowledge that given the decades of mismanagement, quagmire of bureaucracy, and limited proficiencies of many of the people who must lead the necessary transformation, serious concerns remain about whether the City and Department are capable of fully and faithfully implementing this Action Plan with integrity. This combined with the Monitoring Team’s serious concerns about the current conditions of the jails means the Monitoring Team cannot warrant that the Action Plan alone will be sufficient to address the danger, violence, and chaos that continue to occur daily.”