Rikers Island correctional facility in New York where a federal monitor has found the jail to be "patently unsafe" while recommending a federal judge hold New York City and its Department of Correction in contempt. File Photo by Justin Lane/EPA-EFE
July 10 (UPI) -- A scathing new report finds New York's Rikers Island jail to be "patently unsafe" while recommending a federal judge hold New York City and its Department of Correction in contempt to force compliance.
The nearly 300-page report, filed Monday in Manhattan federal court, says "the risk of harm in the jails remains grave and that the jails remain patently unsafe" following years of "unprecedented rates of use of force and violence."
"The current state of affairs and rates of use of force, stabbings and slashing, fights, assaults on staff and in-custody deaths remain extraordinarily high -- they are not typical, they are not expected, they are not normal," court-appointed monitor Steve Martin wrote in the filing.
The federal monitor was appointed in 2014 and since then "some progress has been made," but court-ordered reforms "remain incomplete or have not been addressed."
"The pace of reform has stagnated instead of accelerated in a number of key areas," the report added.
After COVID-19, Rikers experienced a staffing shortage while New York's bail reform law changed the dynamics at the jail where there is now a higher concentration of violent offenders.
According to the report, staff members have been caught on surveillance cameras using head strikes, body slams and chokeholds to control inmates while others take a more apathetic approach and allow inmates to fight to injury or inflict self harm.
Last August, a New York area neurologist -- convicted of sexually assaulting patients -- was found dead in a shower at the jail with a sheet around his neck.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams' administration said Monday it is reviewing the report.
"While we are still reviewing this recently released report, we are prepared to fully defend against any contempt motion and the record will reflect the important and necessary steps New York City has taken to make continued progress," a spokesperson for the mayor's office said in a statement.
While the mayor's office argues it should retain control of Rikers, a federal judge is considering whether the federal government should take over the jail.
"Real harm is occurring to real people in real time, and that cautious optimism that meaningful change can occur in this system has significantly diminished given the current climate of regression in key areas and the lack of sustained progress in others coupled with an increasing and troubling lack of transparency," the report said.