Assemblymember Gallagher and Nine Legislative Colleagues Send Letter to Commission of Correction Demanding Immediate Closure of Rikers Island Jail Complex

After at least 14 people dying in New York City jails this year, Commission of Correction urged to use its statutory powers

Brooklyn, NY – Assemblymember Emily Gallagher joined nine other Members of the Assembly in a letter to the state Commission of Correction urging the regulatory body to fulfill its statutory mandate and close New York City’s main jail complex on Rikers Island.

“The [SCOC] has been derelict in its duties with respect to Rikers Island. The Commission was created by the constitution of New York to ensure that New York’s jails and prisons are humane and lawful, and they have completely abdicated their duties. The result is that fourteen people have died in Rikers this year.”

Assemblymember Gallagher was among more than a dozen elected officials who visited Rikers Island on September 13, 2021, in response to a whistleblower report from the chief medical officer on the island, numerous reports from people incarcerated there, and emergency reports filed by a federal monitor about deplorable conditions on the island. 

“The laws that create the State Commission of Correction authorize it to close any facility that is unsafe or unsanitary. What we have witnessed on Rikers Island – what we have photographic evidence of – is people being crammed, dozens at a time, into small holding cells, being given plastic bags to urinate and defecate in, being denied essential medical care, and rampant violence as the result of hyper-confrontational staff who are unable to perform their most basic duties. The situation is a humanitarian crisis that violates our society’s most essential constitutional rights. Rikers Island must be closed now.”

“The SCOC wrote in a 2018 report that Rikers Island has been systematically violating the constitutional rights of people incarcerated there – that numerous people had died at Rikers Island as a result of grossly negligent medical care – and said itself that it was time for the Commission to explore steps to expeditiously close Rikers Island. We agree, but that was three years ago, and conditions have only gotten worse. We are calling on the Commission to do its job and follow through.”