'Humanitarian crisis' at Rikers Island leads to emergency relief plan for jail

Following an inspection of Rikers Island by local and state leaders, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday he would use emergency orders to make "intense changes" at the jail.

From overcrowding to overflowing toilets to a lack of sanitary products for female inmates, the tour by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and about a dozen others on Monday revealed what he called a "humanitarian crisis" at the city's jail.

"Rikers is an emergency environment, one in which the humanity and health of everyone inside are being disregarded," wrote Williams. "I was shaken during yesterday's tour and I am scared for the well-being of everyone who lives and works on Rikers."

Among the problems at the notorious jail, inmates who were packed into cells were not wearing masks while others were confined in shower stalls where there were no toilets. 

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As a result, Mayor de Blasio said he would put forth an emergency relief plan that would involve the NYPD.

"We're going to be bringing in additional help from a crucial sister agency, the NYPD, to help with certain discreet functions that will take pressure off the Department of Corrections so that corrections officers can go and take care of other tasks," said de Blasio.

Among the changes planned were speeding up the intake process, hiring emergency contractors to handle repairs and suspending any staff member who goes AWOL.

A spokesperson for Corrections Commission Vincent Schiraldi told FOX 5 News that he welcomed the tour because it highlighted the ongoing problems. Schiraldi took the department helm in June.

A union representing correction officers said understaffing was made worse by a large number of COVID cases and a sharp rise in the jail population. 

Plans were in the works to shutter the Rikers complex by 2026 and replace it with four smaller jails intended to be more modern and humane.