Assemblymember Eddie Gibbs, Who Spent 17 Months on Rikers, Visits Island to Observe Sweltering Conditions

Gibbs, first formerly incarcerated member of NYS Legislature, says heat crisis is symptom of crumbling infrastructure at facility

Yesterday, Assemblymember Eddie Gibbs visited the Eric M. Taylor Center on Rikers Island as a heat wave hits New York. Assemblymember Gibbs, who made history this year as the first formerly incarcerated individual to be elected to the New York State Legislature, spent 17 months on Rikers beginning when he was 17 years old. He issued the following statement:

“As New Yorkers brace for this vicious heat wave, they are turning on their air-conditioners and fans, grabbing bags of ice, and going for a swim. For the detainees and staff at Rikers Island, there are often no such options available. Yesterday, I toured a facility on Rikers Island to see the scorching hot conditions for myself again – the same conditions as I remember from when I was detained there at 17 years old. As the temperature outside reached 94 degrees, our visit was a reminder that regardless of your stance on closing Rikers, there is a heat crisis affecting both incarcerated individuals and staff that we must address.”

The Department of Corrections works year-round to install additional air conditioning units across the Department as infrastructure permits and installed air conditioning units in 16 new housing areas before temperatures began to rise this summer. Unfortunately, DOC facility infrastructure is quite old and cannot support air conditioning across all housing areas. The Department also attempts to relocate individuals who are heat sensitive to air-conditioned units.

This was Assemblymember Eddie Gibbs’ second visit to Rikers Island so far this year, which is one of seven correctional facilities he has toured while in office. He was sworn-in last January after winning a special election. Assemblymember Gibbs represents the 68th Assembly District, which encompasses East Harlem, Randall’s Island, and parts of the Upper East Side and Central Harlem.