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Pandemic creates new debate over city jails, fate of Rikers
By: Jay Dow , PIX11 Web Team November 13, 20. 12:24

 

NEW YORK CITY — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact and even restrict parts of the area, New York City correction officers are pushing to keep two of the city’s jails open because of the pandemic.

One of the two facilities is located on Rikers Island — the Otis Bantum Correction Center, and, according to the Legal Aid Society, has a 52% capacity.

The Manhattan Detention Center — also known as The Tombs — is the other facility in question. It's currently at 67% capacity, the Legal Aid Society said.

The City Council has already approved plans to close Rikers in favor of several smaller, borough-based jail facilities, but that plan was conceived, and approved, before the pandemic, when keeping a safe social distance from one another was less important.

Benny Boscio Jr., president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, said keeping the facilities on Rikers open would allow for proper social distancing, and the union earlier this week won a court injunction temporarily halting plans to close both facilities until the matter can be discussed during a Thursday court hearing.

"I get the hole 'close Rikers' movement," he said, "but this is about lives here. It's more about safety of correction officers and everybody else that's in the facilities. If we're supposed to social distance, why are we exempt from New York City? This is about lives."

He added that eight correction officers died from COVID-19 during the city's first wave, and with new restrictions coming, the city's jails shouldn't be exempt, and therefore unsafe, he asserted.

When asked to comment, a spokesperson for the DOC referred PIX11 to the City Law Department.

A spokesperson for the New York City Law Department said facility safety isn't at risk.

“The Department’s plan to consolidate two jails, which has been underway for weeks, is being done based on proven public health practices which have been effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

Archive News

 Teenage inmates will be transferred from Rikers Island to a South Bronx lock-up under a new initiative unveiled Thursday by Mayor de Blasio.

By: Michael Gartland July 22, 16. 22:18

A child rapist allegedly attacked a female clinician at Rikers Island on Wednesday — one year after he attempted to rape a female corrections officer, sources said. Raleek Young — who was convicted in 2007 of raping a 13-year-old girl — was choking the mental-health worker when two correction’s officers intervened, law-enforcement sources said. He then attacked the officers until he was subdued.

By: Gabrielle Fonrouge and Larry Celona | NY Post July 8, 16. 17:29

The Correction Officers Benevolent Association and its president, Norman Sea­brook, filed a wide-ranging lawsuit against the city last week charging that it was violating state law by failing to provide COBA members with a safe place to work.

By: Mark Toor | The Chief Leader July 8, 16. 17:25

It began as a “dream” on Thursday, in a speech by the New York City Council speaker: closing the Rikers Island jail complex.

By: J. David Goodman | NY Times July 6, 16. 16:41

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