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New series of reforms aim to improve staffing issues, improve intake conditions at Rikers Island

East Elmhurst, NY – Mayor de Blasio and Department of Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi announced an additional round of initiatives aimed at improving living conditions and increasing safety in the City’s jails on Tuesday. These initiatives continue the City’s ongoing efforts to address the wave of challenging issues and conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The new efforts send a clear message: NYC is doing everything it can to make the City’s jails as safe and humane as possible, a process that will take time and work,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Among the new initiatives are greater accountability measures for correction officers who refuse to show up for shifts that force their colleagues to work double and triple overtime, as well as the opening of new physical intake processes that will ensure detainees are more quickly and safely entering City facilities.

The full plan builds on initial efforts set forth by DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi in August.

“All of these initiatives involve hard work, coordination, and partnering with City and jail workers who have already been fighting valiantly during pandemic conditions for 18 months. I want to thank the mayor for the vital help he and his team have provided. We cannot and will not rest until this crisis is over,” said DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi.

The new measures include:

Improving Staff Levels

  • Toughening accountability for AWOL correction officers with 30-day suspensions for those who do not show up or call in to work.
  • Expanding medical evaluation capacity for staff with additional medical providers to evaluate DOC officers for duty.
  • Incentivizing staff by including bonus and special payments for officers who do not abuse leave who are:
    • Working a triple shift  
    • Working a double in a different facility to help fellow officers
    • Assigned to housing, intake, and medical in certain jails
  • Bringing food to officers on post and bringing food trucks to Rikers Island for staff to eat and take food home.
  • Adjusting staffing at courts by shifting 100 NYPD officers to help operate in courts, allowing some DOC court staff to shift back to duty in jail facilities.

Improving Conditions

  • Engaging in emergency contracting to quickly repair broken doors, and deep clean facilities.
  • Expanding tablets rapidly, to engage people in custody and reduce idle time.
  • Expanding contract programming providers to facilitate recreation time, and to reduce tension and idle time.

Increasing Speed and Safety During Intake

  • The reopening the Eric M. Taylor Center (EMTC), a formerly shuttered jail, includes two clinics and a housing unit. The facility offers better space and patient flow for Correctional Health Services' clinical operations, including intake and follow-up care, which are essential to their COVID-containment strategy.
  • Speeding up intake to create more space, with a goal of quickly moving people through the intake process in 24 hours or fewer so they can be housed.

The new measures build on the Rikers emergency relief plan announced by Mayor de Blasio in September.