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Root causes at Rikers


To the editor:

On April 4, the Gothamist news site reported on a court filing by the main corrections union claiming that a federal takeover OF Rikers would “lead to chaos.”

Chaos already exists on Rikers but a federal takeover will prompt even more. But the bigger issue is that for nine years, the federal monitor, Steve Martin, has not addressed the root causes of the chaos and unfortunately neither would a federal receiver.

The root causes are DOC officials’ unwillingness to assert their legal authority to keep order, gang control of the jails, little to no accountability for detainee violence, elimination of confinement for violent detainees and implementation of policies that are ineffective and counterproductive to safety.

Additionally, the reports submitted by Martin alleging the uniformed force is responsible for the chaos distract from the effort to address the actual causes described above. In 2022-2023, after uniformed chiefs and wardens were replaced with civilians by Martin and former commissioner Louis Molina, the Rikers chaos only got worse.

Martin holds significant influence on the major decisions regarding DOC policy. He is able to impose dominance because if DOC doesn’t succumb to his will he will ask the court to order a federal takeover.

But As long as the current commissioner capitulates to Martin a federal takeover is unlikely. In 2023, Molina made a veiled attempt at challenging Martin’s authority but it backfired and as a result Molina was “promoted” to another post within the Adams administration.

During the Bill de Blasio mayoralty there was little concern of a federal takeover because former DOC commissioners Cynthia Brann and Vincent Schiraldi completely surrendered to Martin’s will without any push back.

Martin is a significant part of the problem, yet ironically he and his team have made $22 million off their failure.

DOC has two options: do what Martin says or expect a federal takeover of Rikers.

Marc Bullaro

The writer is a retired NYC DOC assistant deputy warden.


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