NEW YORK - At a State Assembly hearing in Lower Manhattan on Friday, state lawmakers grilled the city’s first deputy mayor, as well as the city's Department of Correction Commissioner, Vincent Schiraldi, about the conditions at Rikers.
"What I saw and witnessed was nothing less than a humanitarian crisis," said New York State Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas.
González-Rojas was of more than a dozen elected officials who visited Rikers Island last month, all of them claiming to be horrified by what they saw.
"I saw garbage all over the floor, I saw a dozen people to a cell, I saw people with no access to food or water, I saw people not having clean clothes for 5 to 7 days, no PPE," said González-Rojas.
"This year there have been 11 deaths in our custody, seven of them have occurred since I came on as commissioner, one of the most recent deaths was a man who was on a temporary parole violation," said Schiraldi.
He says the population at Rikers has decreased by more than 500 inmates in just the past two weeks and that 600 new corrections officers are currently being trained to start work by the new year. Just before the hearing started, protesters gathered across the street, some of them had family members who died in city jails.
"My sister was vibrant, my sister had so much life left in her and simply because of this practice of solitary confinement she is no longer here with us today," said Melania Brown.