‘The inmates are in control’: DOC commissioner confirms report on Rikers crisis

Dan Mannarino, Sarah Vasile, Corey Crockett

NEW YORK — A day after a federal report described “dangerous” and “gravely concerning” conditions at Rikers Island, Department of Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi told PIX11 News’ Dan Mannarino the prison has “been at a crisis level for years.”

“For anybody who thinks that things were going well a year ago or two years ago … they’re living in a dream world,” Schiraldi said.

The report by a federal monitoring team, filed Thursday, questioned the competency of department leaders and claim only systemic changes and court-ordered relief can change the Department of Correction’s “significant deficiencies.”

The federal monitor cited staggering statistics from the past 10 months: more than 700 reported “uses of force” by staff and more than 50 slashing or stabbings, along with other security and operational failures.

The city’s jail facilities have faced criticism for years, with calls to close the much-maligned Rikers Island complex becoming a key issue for New York City politics; but in recent weeks, the safety of inmates and staffers alike have shifted into the spotlight, with public servants, union officials and activists alike all calling for change.

The situation was even referred to as a “humanitarian crisis.”

Schiraldi also addressed a report from the New York Times claiming that detainees, not staff, were effectively running the prison.

“The inmates are in control,” he said. “I’m not going to question the Times report.”

Watch Schiraldi’s full interview with Dan Mannarino in the video player above.