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‘Common Sense’ Republicans Tour Rikers: ‘It’s a Great Atmosphere in There’

Props to them for keeping straight faces.

9:51 AM EDT on August 9, 2023

A shot of the sign in front of Rikers Island.
(Hell Gate)

Pay no attention to that palpable aura of human suffering behind the curtain—everything's totally fine on Rikers Island, according to a caucus of City Councilmembers who visited the facility on Tuesday. Vickie Paladino, Joann Ariola, Ari Kagan, Inna Vernikov and David Carr, all Republicans, and Robert Holden and Kalman Yeger, two right-leaning Democrats, reportedly called the jail "cheerful." At a press conference, Holden said, "It's a great atmosphere in there," and reiterated the position of the caucus: A federal takeover of the jail is totally unnecessary, and Department of Correction Commissioner Louis A. Molina is doing an awesome job.

This feedback comes at a time when the federal monitor assigned to Rikers since 2015, along with federal prosecutors, have finally reached the end of their ropes with the Adams administration and essentially called for control of the facility to be wrested from the City and placed into the purview of a federal receiver. The Board of Correction, an independent watchdog agency for City jails, joined the chorus on Wednesday with an op-ed in the New York Daily News. 

Four people have died while being held on Rikers Island this year, and reports of guards who flaunt rules with no consequences, enact or allow violence on detainees, plus a correction department that's willing to tolerate and obfuscate all of the above amount to a genuine crisis on Rikers that's been going on for years. The federal monitor, Steve Martin, also called for the City to be placed in contempt of court in order to pave the way for the federal takeover at tomorrow's hearing on the jail's future. In his latest report, Martin called the DOC's most recent proposals to fix the crisis on Rikers "haphazard, tepid, and insubstantial" and found they lacked "an adequate level of detail, substance or intensity."

But the Common Sense Caucus didn't see a crisis, or any of the same issues as the man who's been tasked with chronicling the continuous escalation of violence and neglect on Rikers; instead, they said they saw "freshly painted facilities and walked through air conditioned rooms" on their tour of the complex, and concluded as a caucus that calls for receivership are a big, politically motivated overstep of the City's boundaries—and a slap in the face to the real victims on Rikers, hard-working corrections officers. Why do and say all of this, in the face of so much evidence from impartial observers? Maybe the caucus wants to get in good with the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association—which does seem very organized and able to mobilize its members—or maybe Louis Molina is super fun at parties and they wanted to do him a solid.

"Rikers is not a 5 star resort, but it was also NOT the inhumane horror we’re being told by the left woke mob that it is. It is after all a facility for the most serious criminal offenders in NYC," Councilmember Vernikov tweeted, saying the quiet part out loud, after the visit. As a pre-trial detention facility, Rikers almost exclusively holds individuals charged with crimes for which they haven't been convicted.

Some links that must be true because we saw them with our own eyes: 

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