Four New York congressional lawmakers toured Rikers Island Tuesday, just weeks after calling for a federal intervention at the troubled jail complex.
Reps. Ritchie Torres, Carolyn Maloney, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Tom Suozzi visited the facility and spoke with staff and inmates.
Torres said that while he believes there is “far more stability” at Rikers than several weeks ago, he continues to have concerns about the estimated intake time for detainees. The de Blasio administration said late last month that the intake time had been reduced to about 10 hours.
This was Torres’s first time visiting Rikers.
“I have enormous empathy for the plight of the correction officers. The system sets up both the correction officers and the detainees to fail,” Torres said in an interview after the visit. He noted that many of the officers were women of color.
"It was striking that the majority of the correction officers were women of color," @RepRitchie told me, reflecting on what he saw during his first visit to Rikers earlier today.— Kevin Frey (@KevinFreyTV) October 12, 2021
He also spoke to inmates. More 👇 @NY1 pic.twitter.com/wVZWukn3lD
Torres recently spearheaded a letter to President Joe Biden and the Department of Justice, requesting a federal intervention and civil rights investigation. All New York City House Democrats signed the letter.
The DOJ so far has not responded to that letter, Torres said Tuesday.
As for next steps, Torres argued that if the safety of inmates cannot be guaranteed, “we should release as many of them as we can safely release.”
In a separate statement after his visit, Suozzi said that, “Staffing must be reassessed and adequate. Management must lay out a clear vision and a plan to implement that vision.”
"The corrections officers are working under very difficult conditions, the physical plant is a mess, there's not enough staff," @RepTomSuozzi told me after his Rikers visit today.— Kevin Frey (@KevinFreyTV) October 13, 2021
He also weighed in on the push to close the facility.
More 👇 @NY1 pic.twitter.com/TNOq8JUjpI
Maloney and Ocasio-Cortez are both members of the House Oversight Committee, with Maloney serving as chair. They recently requested a briefing from the mayor’s office on the situation at Rikers. A committee spokesperson said the staff was briefed last week, and they are working with the mayor’s office to get “another status update soon."