Williams urges mayor, governor to visit Rikers immediately

Candles are seen on the sign marking the entrance to the New York City Department of Corrections Rikers Island facility in Queens, in New York, U.S., Feb. 14, 2018.
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams on Tuesday called on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Kathy Hochul to visit Rikers Island Correctional Facility immediately, urging them to address “crisis conditions” there.

“Rikers is an emergency environment, one in which the humanity and health of everyone inside are being disregarded,” said Williams. “I was shaken during yesterday’s tour, and I am scared for the well-being of everyone who lives or works on Rikers.

“Corrections staff and incarcerated people alike are in constant, imminent danger,” he added. “It is a humanitarian crisis rapidly descending toward even greater disaster.

“I implore the mayor and the governor to go to Rikers today, immediately,” Williams continued. “See what I saw, hear what I heard, and you will know the moral, human obligation using every tool available to provide disaster relief. It will not be easy – but any hesitation by leadership to act now amounts to responsibility for the consequences of inaction.”

The public advocate also urged Hochul to sign the Less is More Act, and put it into effect immediately.

On the city level, he said low-level offenders should be granted supervised release, adding that early and compassionate release options should be exercised, and that technical parole violations should not be grounds for incarceration.

He also said court proceedings must be accelerated, and alternatives to incarceration should be the priority.

In addition, Williams said the Department of Correction must engage in stabilization efforts “to show staff the city is invested in their safety and security. Staff must return to work.

“The warnings were repeated for a long time, and they were downplayed or ignored,” Williams claimed. “Now, we must simultaneously move to get more staff back onto the island and more incarcerated people off of it.”

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