Judge considers federal takeover of Rikers Island amid mounting abuse allegations

A U.S. District judge is considering a federal takeover of Rikers Island, after several court filings that describe incidents of severe violence, including death, and abuse of power by correction officers.

The judge heard testimony from members of the federal monitor, who have been tasked with overseeing conditions at the jail since 2015.

The federal monitor testified that there was daily violence and open drug use. 

They detailed one incident in which a man was left paralyzed after being tackled onto the concrete ground by correction officers.

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NEW YORK, US - NOVEMBER 17: Protesters gather at the Foley Square before a federal court receivership hearing and demand the closure of Rikers Island prison on November 17, 2022. The jail has killed 18 people already this year and the federal monitor notes that a "depth of dysfunction permeates the entire system." (Photo by Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Seven inmates have died at Riker's this year. 

Former Riker's inmate, Henry Robinson, spoke at a rally outside the hearing on Thursday.

"Rikers Island, and the danger that it brings, and the people that are dying…and us having to need somebody from outside to help, because nobody on the inside cares," he said.

Queens Councilman, Robert, Holden, toured Rikers on Tuesday, along with other councilmembers.

They say there have been physical improvements to the jail, but more time is needed to make substantial changes.

The federal judge said the city's efforts to improve conditions at Rikers have been 'tepid' and 'insubstantial'.

Each side now has until November to submit written arguments regarding federal control of the jail.