New York

An ‘Absolute Emergency’ at Rikers Island as Violence Increases

Condemning the “deterioration of basic security protocols and denial of basic services and protections” that had led to the escalation in violence, the monitor’s letter said that about 35 percent of the Correction Department’s 8,500 staff members had either called in sick or were otherwise limited in working with those behind bars. (Department employees get unlimited sick time.)

By the end of July, the letter said, the department had reported that employees had failed to report for 2,300 shifts that month without providing advance notice that they planned not to work.

Like the federal monitor, Mr. Schiraldi has said the department has enough employees, even as a corrections officers’ union, which is suing New York City over what it says are inhumane working conditions at Rikers, has urged city officials to hire thousands more.

Benny Boscio Jr., the president of the union, the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, said in a statement that the monitor’s letter showed that Mr. Martin “was working as a public relations arm of the D.O.C.”

“Officers are out sick because they continue to be forced to work under hostile and inhumane working conditions where they are forced to work 25 hours or more without meals and rest and are brutally assaulted by inmates with impunity,” Mr. Boscio said.

“Fix the inhumane working conditions and you will fix the staffing crisis,” he added.

Keith Powers, a City Council member who leads the criminal justice committee, said in an interview that he approved of the commissioner’s focus on improving the morale of department staff while addressing the problem of absenteeism.

But, Mr. Powers, a Democrat, emphasized, “we are in an absolute emergency inside the city jails.”

Benjamin Weiser contributed reporting.

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