De Blasio blames everyone but himself for Rikers Island debacle

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Friday, The Post ran unique images from inside Rikers Island’s Otis Bantum jailhouse over the summer time. They are horrific: dozens of males mendacity head-to-foot on the ground. Inmates napping close to open bathrooms. Visiting the jail in September, Mayor de Blasio opted to not go in. Still, he mentioned, “the whole thing upsets me.” 

Why? The overcrowding was deliberate. 

When confronted with Rikers, the mayor blames everyone and every little thing but himself. He blames his predecessors. “When I came into office, there were immense problems here,” he mentioned final month. He blames COVID: “a massive, massive challenge.” 

Fact is, there’s no excuse. Last yr, the jails had a median of 4,961 inmates every day, and 16,179 general admissions. In the final yr of the Bloomberg administration, the figures have been 11,408 common day by day inmates, and 77,141 general admissions. 

This isn’t “mass incarceration.” And a reliable administration would don’t have any bother managing this record-low inhabitants. 

The worst horrors of the summer time have been preventable. 

The metropolis crammed inmates right into a short-term “intake” heart. Correction guidelines say inmates aren’t supposed to remain in consumption for greater than 24 hours. But dozens stayed almost every week. One man, Isaabdul Karim, died of COVID after languishing there. 

Hmmm. Let’s return to early 2020, earlier than COVID. That month, de Blasio was doing a victory lap about shuttering jails. The Brooklyn Detention Complex closed in January 2020. The Eric M. Taylor Center, on Rikers, closed early that March. 

“These two closures show that we are making good on our promise to close Rikers,” the mayor mentioned, “and create a correctional system that is fundamentally smaller, safer and fairer.” 

Smaller, sure. Safer, fairer, no. The closures crammed 1,250 extra inmates into Rikers’ still-open buildings. The Taylor Center had an consumption heart, but when it shut, new inmates overwhelmed Bantum. 

Inmates packed together at Rikers Island.
Inmates packed collectively at Rikers Island.

Inmates would have been higher off staying in Brooklyn and at Taylor — the place the variety of individuals jailed was at simply half of capability. 

Indeed, a determined de Blasio bowed to actuality final month, reopening Taylor. 

For too lengthy earlier than the reopening, the mayor most well-liked the “optics” to actuality: sustaining the fiction that New York is closing Rikers. 

The metropolis’s fantastical — and lethal — story extends to the larger image. 

We maintain listening to about this “historic” dedication of $9 billion to shutter Rikers and construct 4 jails — one in every borough besides Staten Island. 

But this mayor has made no dedication. The jails plan is already two years late. The company accountable for awarding the much-delayed contracts, town’s Department of Design and Construction, has simply misplaced its chief, Jamie Torres-Springer, to the MTA. 

What has town executed for Rikers, since inmates can be caught there for one other seven years? The metropolis spends $1.3 billion a yr in working funds, up 14 p.c for the reason that remaining yr of the Bloomberg administration. 

Recently closing the Brooklyn Detention Complex closed and Eric M. Taylor Center contributed to the overcrowding at Rikers Island.
Recently closing the Brooklyn Detention Complex closed and Eric M. Taylor Center contributed to the overcrowding at Rikers Island.

Yet that cash goes to employees. What about bodily circumstances? 

Over the primary seven years of the de Blasio administration, town spent a complete of $492.2 million on large-scale bodily tasks on the Department of Correction. 

That’s beneath what the Bloomberg administration spent within the earlier seven years — $506.9 million, not accounting for inflation. 

De Blasio didn’t shut Rikers, but he successfully deserted it. 

Last yr, the speed of inmate assaults on each other was 98.1 per 1,000 individuals. The fee of assaults on guards was 19.6. The final yr of the Bloomberg administration, the numbers have been 32.9 and 5.9, respectively. 

The downside isn’t an absence of staffing, both. It’s the kind of staffing. In Bloomberg’s final yr, the variety of guards was 8,922; the variety of civilian directors was 1,397. By 2020, simply earlier than COVID, the figures have been 9,237, with 1,803 directors. 

Earlier this summer time, with mass desertions, they have been at 8,388 guards and 1,661 directors. 

De Blasio would have had extra room for error if he hadn’t padded the workplaces with executives to speak about “equity.” 

Still, the variety of guards is sort of 1.7 per inmate, up from three-quarters of a guard per inmate in 2013. The variety of call-outs and no-shows — as much as one-third day by day — is simply plain mismanagement. 

Given just a few months, nevertheless, de Blasio can be proper, lastly: It can be another person’s downside. 

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.