ALBANY — The conditions at Rikers Island have gotten so bad that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order permitting virtual court hearings to be conducted at the jail, instead of risking transporting prisoners.
Hochul stepped in several weeks ago by greenlighting legislation permitting the transfer of over 100 inmates from city-run Rikers to state-run facilities, aimed at creating more space within the 6000-person lock-up facing reports of escalated violence, deteriorating living conditions and severe staffing shortages.
A federal monitor declared the jail system is in a “state of emergency” last Friday.
“When I signed the Less is More Act into law ten days ago, it was the beginning, not the end, of my administration’s work to help find solutions to the crisis on Rikers Island,” said Hochul in a statement.
Earlier this month, Hochul signed a bill into law allowing the early release of individuals behind bars because of technical parole violations — such as missing curfew or being late for an appointment with a parole officer.
Although the new law doesn’t take effect until early 2022, the governor said the expedited move was necessary to help alleviate overcrowding issues.
“Improving safety and justice at Rikers is about protecting human rights and human dignity. No incarcerated person, no corrections officer, and no family member should have to endure the reality of Rikers as it exists today, and we must do everything in our power to prevent New Yorkers from languishing in Rikers awaiting their day in court,” she said.
The governor’s office said Tuesday so far, 125 individuals have been transferred from Rikers to state-run prisons.
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