NEW YORK — NY1 has learned that all New York City House Democrats are calling on President Joe Biden to intervene at Rikers Island — and for the Justice Department to launch a civil rights probe into the troubled jails complex.
In a letter obtained by NY1, the Congress members write: “We believe the Administration should coordinate with New York State and City officials to stabilize the current crisis prior to the facility’s permanent closure.”
It goes on to say, "We cannot continue to allow Rikers Island to deteriorate to the point that it is no longer a safe place for those in custody or those who work in the jails.”
Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres spearheaded the letter, which is also signed by:
- Reps. Jamaal Bowman
- Yvette Clarke
- Adriano Espaillat
- Hakeem Jeffries
- Mondaire Jones
- Carolyn Maloney
- Gregory Meeks
- Grace Meng
- Jerry Nadler
- Alexandria Ocasio Cortez
- Tom Suozzi
- Nydia Velazquez
Among the letter’s recipients are Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Since 2015, Rikers has been overseen by a federal monitor, who is now calling for outside security help for the jails complex.
Twelve inmates in Department of Correction custody have died this year, including five by suicide.
In the letter, the lawmakers outline examples of the “unacceptable” conditions, pointing to the staffing, violence, sanitation problems, and COVID-19 transmission.
They also take issue with a recent five-point plan announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio to address the problems at Rikers, saying it “does not provide the urgent and immediate intervention required to deescalate a very real crisis.”
Asked for comment, the White House deferred to the Department of Justice, which has so far not provided a response to the letter.