Hundreds of inmates serving time on Rikers Island are set to be sprung prematurely as part of a desperate bid by Mayor Bill de Blasio to deal with the shortage of correction officers willing to work there, The Post has learned.
The horde of ex-cons — who could be freed starting Tuesday — would comprise the second wave of convicted criminals granted early release since last year, when officials used the COVID-19 pandemic to justify putting around 300 jailbirds back on the streets.
Those inmates were among more than 1,500 who were freed last year due to the coronavirus crisis, reducing the city’s jail population to 4,363 — a level not seen since in more than 70 years.
The latest plan comes amid a surge in shootings and serious assaults that helped push the average daily jail population to 5,730 in July, its highest in more than a year, according to the most recent statistics compiled by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services.
The newest batch of early releases were set to start last Thursday but were delayed when the remnants of Hurricane Ida struck the Big Apple and killed 13 people, law enforcement sources said.
“The mayor wants to close Rikers and he will use any opportunity to release the prisoners,” one source said.
“He is leaving in three-plus months and he wants to release as many prisoners as he can.”
The inmates under consideration include Allen Nimmons, 56, a career burglar who’s served seven prison sentences and is locked up for violating parole, sources said.
Another is Rashawn Powell, 30, who’s serving a sentence for three counts of dealing drugs on school grounds, in addition to bail jumping, sources said.
But officials are keeping the names of those set for early release closely guarded because de Blasio “doesn’t want the pushback that he got last time when he released dangerous felons,” a source said.
“There are only the worst kind criminals left in jail — people with gun arrests, shootings, sex crimes, etc. No one is in for shoplifting,” the source added.
Meanwhile, fed-up correction officers circulated a text message over the weekend calling for a Labor Day “Bang-In” — slang for an organized sick-out — by all Department of Correction workers to protest conditions that include “daily triple/quadruple tours,” “unmanned posts” and “no meal breaks.”
“We have been taken advantage of for too long. Let’s take our lives back,” the message said.
But the effort appeared to have fizzled, with one officer who arrived at Rikers on Monday afternoon saying he was unaware of it and another, who was leaving, said he would still be stuck inside working if it had happened.
The latter officer, however, said that the lack of Rikers staff was making the infamous jail “extremely dangerous,” adding that conditions were ripe for a replay of the deadly Attica prison riot in 1971.
“If you look at the history of prison riots — if you look at Attica — it stems from the same thing: shortage of staff,” said the officer, a 10-year veteran.
“You are going to have that here if nothing changes.”
De Blasio — who leaves office at the end of the year — has blamed the Big Apple’s increasing violence on a lack of trials being conducted by the state court system, which accused him of “gaslighting” the public.
Last week, he also tied the conditions inside Rikers to “the impact of COVID, still,” as well as “absenteeism at an unacceptable level.”
“And in many cases, unfortunately, it has not been real and justified absenteeism,” he said during a news conference on Wednesday, referring to staff shortages.
On Monday, the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association — which has called for the hiring of 2,000 more officers — tweeted, “On #LaborDay, we celebrate the contributions of workers across this country in the fight for better working conditions.”
“Today and everyday, we remain committed in the fight to ensure a fair and safe workplace for New York’s Boldest,” the union added.
City Hall didn’t immediately return a request for comment but a spokesman for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice recently acknowledged that a “series of changes” was underway to “improve the situation” at Rikers.
Spokesman Colby Hamilton also pointed to an October report by the MOCJ that found 82 percent of the inmates granted early release by the city under Article 6A of the state Correction Law hadn’t been re-arrested since their sentences expired.
Hamilton didn’t say how many had been re-arrested since then.
The city Department of Correction said it doesn’t provide information on releases ahead of time and did not comment further.
Additional reporting by Julia Marsh