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Federal prosecutor pushes to take over New York’s Rikers Island jail

Rikers Island Jail Complex, 2014 Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Federal prosecutor pushes to take over New York’s Rikers Island jail

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams on Monday announced his intention to appeal for a federal takeover of Rikers Island, New York City’s largest jail complex. Williams aims to remove New York Mayor Eric Adams’ control over the island and install a court-appointed leader, or “receiver,” to oversee the jail. Last week, a report by a court-appointed representative showed the conditions inside Rikers fell below standards previously set by the courts.

Why is a federal takeover of Rikers a big deal? A June report by court-appointed monitor Steve Martin described “violence and the unnecessary and excessive use of force” from both guards and prisoners. Nineteen detainees died while temporarily housed at Rikers in 2022. Discussions of a government takeover of Rikers have persisted for years, and groups such as the New York-based nonprofit Legal Aid Society hope that federal oversight will increase the safety and conditions at the facility.  Responding to the prosecutor’s announcement, a City Hall spokesperson told The Associated Press that the administration’s efforts with Rikers had been having a positive impact in some areas noted by the monitor.

Dig deeper: Read Emily Belz’s report in WORLD Magazine on COVID-19 behind bars.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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