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Morning Spew

It’s Tuesday, Check Out These Correction Officers Throwing a Party at Rikers Island

As people continue to die at Rikers, those who run the City's notorious jail get booze, white tablecloths, and thrones.

6:45 AM EDT on August 16, 2022

(HLIT / Flickr) A view of Rikers Island from the water

On Monday, a doctor found guilty of sexually assaulting patients was found dead on Rikers Island of an apparent suicide. He was the 12th person to die in the City’s jails so far this year, suggesting New York will break last year’s record of 16 people dead⁠—the highest number of deaths recorded since 2013.

The infamous jail has seen conditions worsen since a 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 among correction officers and mass absenteeism of jail staff left inmates without food or water. A class action lawsuit filed late last year alleges thousands of detainees are not receiving necessary medical care. The horrors to come out of Rikers are, at this point, routine: It's been three years since the city council voted to close the jail, ten months since members of Congress described Rikers as a "humanitarian crisis" and urged the Biden administration to get involved. Meanwhile, the jail is still open, and people inside keep dying. But as inmates continue to suffer horrific and preventable deaths, senior correction officers are throwing lavish parties on the island to congratulate themselves on a job well done.

There were two deaths at Rikers last month: A 34-year-old man named Michael Lopez who suffered from schizophrenia died of an apparent overdose in mid-July, a series of events his family said was an attempt to self-medicate after he was denied access to four separate medications he took for his mental illness. On July 10, another detainee who suffered from mental illness, Elijah Muhammed, died after spending more than 32 hours in isolation. He was being held on an assault charge, awaiting trial.

The day after Muhammed’s death, as the New York Daily News reported on Monday, hundreds of Correction Department staff set up a white tent between two of the jails on the island to celebrate Chief Ada Pressley’s retirement. It was a regal affair with white tablecloths, formal silverwear, and a cake emblazoned with the outgoing chief’s face. In a sizzle reel, Pressley presides over the festivities from a distinctly throne-like chair; her name is spelled out in lights. It remains unclear who footed the bill for the party, but Joseph Russo, the president of a union that represents Rikers wardens, told the Daily News it was a “tasteful party,” particularly compared to a similar celebration last year where lobster was served and rose petals were thrown at outgoing Correction Department Chief Hazel Jennings.

In December, the Legal Aid Society filed a class action lawsuit alleging thousands of detainees had not received necessary medical care. In January, Pressley filed an affidavit saying the Correction Department had been unable to “substantially comply” with a judge’s order to fix the issue.

In the video filmed during the party, Pressley is dressed in all white and appears to be having a wonderful time. Water bottles adorned with her face were handed out to guests.

Here's what else is going on in our corrupt little town:

  • Gary Jenkins, New York City’s social services commissioner, is under investigation after homeless families spent the night in a Bronx intake office while applying for shelter last month
  • Be Tran, the 74-year-old victim of a deadly hit-and-run, was a DoorDash driver on his last delivery for the night, according to his family. 
  • Allen Weisselberg, the financial advisor who once referred to himself as Donald Trump’s “eyes and ears,” is expected to plead guilty to tax fraud charges later this week. According to the New York Times, the plea deal will not involve Weisselberg turning against Trump. 
  • Rep. Ritchie Torres is unhappy congestion pricing may divert trucks to the Cross Bronx Expressway; Governor Kathy Hochul is not moved

And, finally, we’ll have what he’s having: 

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