MetroFocus: October 19, 2021

RIKERS, BEHIND THE BARS: NEW YORK TIMES INVESTIGATES

Chaotic, lawless, violent and deadly. Those are just some of the words being used to describe the recent conditions at notorious New York City lockup, Rikers Island. This week, amid a deepening crisis, nearly all women and transgendered detainees will be transferred to two state jails 40 miles north of the city. The hope is that the move will alleviate chronic understaffing at the complex, where as many as one third of correctional officers often do not show up to work. And that’s not all. A recent New York Times investigation has uncovered unprecedented levels of violence, describing a dangerous situation in which guards have effectively handed over control of the jail to its detainees. Tonight, New York Times investigative reporter Jan Ransom takes us inside the shocking discoveries in a special report.

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TOO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

CHAOTIC, LAWLESS, VIOLENT, DEADLY, THOSE ARE JUST SOME OF THE WORDS BEING USED TO DESCRIBE THE RECENT CONDITIONS AT RIKERS ISLAND, NEW YORK CITY'S MOST DANGEROUS JAIL COMPLEX.

THIS WEEK AMID A DEEPENING CRISIS, NEARLY ALL WOMEN AND TRANSGENDERED INMATES CURRENTLY HELD AT RIKERS WILL BE TRANSFERRED OFF THE ISLAND IN TWO STATE JAILS NORTH OF THE CITY.

THE HOPE IS THIS MAY HELP TO ALLEVIATE THE CHRONIC UNDERSTAFFING AT THE COMPLEX, WHERE AS MANY AS ONE-THIRD CORRECTION OFFICERS OFTEN ARE NOT SHOWING UP FOR WORK.

A RECENT 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' INVESTIGATION INTO RIKERS UNCOVERED UNPRECEDENTED LEVELS OF VIOLENCE, DESCRIBING DANGEROUS SITUATIONS WHERE GUARDS HAVE IN EFFECT HANDED OVER CONTROL OF THE JAIL TO THE INMATES.

JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THIS INVESTIGATION IS 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER JANUARY RANSOM.

JAN, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

LET ME ASK YOU TO PROVIDE US A BACKDROP, IF YOU WILL, BY EXPLAINING THE PHYSICAL STRUCTURE OF RIKERS ISLAND AND THE JAIL FACILITIES THAT ARE LOCATED THERE.

SURE, SO RIKERS ISLAND INCLUDES EIGHT BUILDINGS AND IT'S LOCATED ON THE EAST RIVER BETWEEN THE BRONX AND QUEENS.

IT'S A FACILITY OR SET OF FACILITIES THAT HOUSES PEOPLE WHO ARE THERE PRIMARILY PRETRIAL, SO THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME BUT NOT YET CONVICTED.

AND SO THEY'RE STILL GOING THROUGH THE PROCESS OF HAVING TO GO TO COURT AND APPEAR FOR DIFFERENT HEAR EGGS AND THAT'S THE POPULATION THAT WE ARE SEEING THERE.

LET ME TAKE YOU BACK TO 2017 WHEN YOU BEGAN TO COVER THIS STORY, THE RIKERS ISLAND STORY.

YOU AND I WILL TALK ABOUT CIRCUMSTANCES NOW BUT I'M INTERESTED IN WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO IT BACK THEN, WHEN YOU BEGAN TO EXPERIENCE AND UNDERSTAND THE COMPLEX AND STAFFING AND POPULATIONS THERE.

WHAT DID YOU THINK FIRST?

SURE.

I STARTED OUT COVERING RIKERS AND COVERING YOUR TYPICAL -- WHEN I SAY TYPICAL, NOT THAT IT SHOULD BE TYPICAL BUT THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS THERE, OFTEN ACCUSATIONS OF SOME GUARDS ASSAULTING SOME DETAINEES, ALLEGATIONS OF VIOLENCE THERE.

THE DETAINEES THEMSELVES, ISSUES WITH VISITORS COMING THERE AND BEING STRIP SEARCHED.

IT JUST KIND OF RAN THE GAMUT OF SOMEWHAT INSANE STORIES AND ACCOUNTS HAPPENING THERE.

ALSO, THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF MY COVERAGE, THE JAIL SYSTEM HAS BEEN UNDER FEDERAL MONITORSHIP, AND SO THERE'S BEEN A COURT-APPOINTED MONITOR THERE TO HELP THE CITY THROUGH INSTITUTING SOME OF THE REFORMS THAT HAVE BEEN REQUIRED OF THEM.

SO I READ COUNTLESS REPORTS OF SOME OF THE CHAOS THAT WAS HAPPENING EVEN BEFORE THIS POINT.

AND A LOT OF IT WAS STUNNING.

IN EACH YEAR, THE JAIL SYSTEM CONTINUED TO BECOME MORE AND MORE VIOLENT.

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE OVERALL PICTURE, AND YOU TALK ABOUT THERE'S SUPPOSED TO BE MONITORING WHAT'S GOING ON.

WE HEARD THE CITY ADMINISTRATION TALK REPEATEDLY ABOUT GETTING INVOLVED, ACTIVELY AT ALL LEVELS OF THE PROBLEMS, THE IDEA ABOUT POSSIBLY THEY TALK ABOUT MOVING EVERYBODY OFF OF RIKERS ISLAND.

COMPARING 2017 TO NOW, HAVE YOU SEEN ANY IMPROVEMENT IN ANY OF THOSE AREAS?

NO, NOT MUCH IMPROVEMENT, NOT AT ALL.

IN FACT, THINGS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE FROM LITERALLY EVERYONE I HAVE TALKED TO, WHETHER IT'S DETAINEES TO CORRECTION OFFICERS TO SUPERVISORS TO ADVOCATES FOR INCARCERATED PEOPLE.

EVEN CITY OFFICIALS, THEY'RE JUST HEARING A COMPLETELY SET OF DIFFERENT STORIES NOW THAT ARE JUST QUITE ALARMING.

LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME OF YOUR FINDINGS THEN AS PART OF THIS INVESTIGATIVE WORK.

BY THE WAY, IT'S BEEN MARVELOUS REPORTING THAT YOU'VE DONE, MARVELOUS INVESTIGATING WORK HERE, WHAT JOURNALISM SHOULD BE.

LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE CATEGORIES, IF YOU WILL.

HOW ABOUT THE LEVEL, THE EXTENT OF VIOLENCE THAT IS TAKING PLACE WITHIN RIKERS?

SURE.

SO THE FEDERAL MONITOR THAT I MENTIONED THAT'S BEEN OVERSEEING THESE REFORMS, EACH YEAR HE SAID THAT IT GETS MORE AND MORE VIOLENT, AND THE RATES OF USE OF FORCE ARE THROUGH THE ROOF.

AND USE OF FORCE IS WHEN A CORRECTION OFFICERS HAVE TO USE PHYSICAL FORCE IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS AND ALSO VIOLENCE IN JAIL AS A WHOLE.

AND THAT HAS ONLY WORSENED IN THE PAST YEAR.

SO WE SEE THAT.

WE ALSO HAVE HAD INSTANCES IN WHICH DETAINEES TOOK A BUS AND RAMMED IT INTO THE SIDE OF ONE OF THE JAIL FACILITIES ON RIKERS ISLAND, AND THIS DETAINEE WAS ABLE TO DO THAT BECAUSE THERE WERE NO CORRECTION OFFICERS MONITORING THEM.

AND SO WE SEE A BUNCH OF OTHER DIFFERENT SCENARIOS PLAYING OUT FROM CORRECTION OFFICERS, ALSO BEING ASSAULTED, BEING THE VICTIMS IN MANY CASES.

SO IT'S JUST A LOT OF ISSUES AT THE FACILITY RIGHT NOW.

IN YOUR REPORTING YOU MENTIONED A NUMBER OF INSTANCES THAT ARE INDEED STAGGERING.

YOU TALKED ABOUT JUST WALKING UP TO THE FRONT OF THE BUS AND GETTING BEHIND THE WHEEL AND RAMMING IT INTO A BUILDING.

YOU TALKED ABOUT IGS SOMEWHATS WHERE VISITORS ARE FINDING THEMSELVES BEING CONFRONTED WITH DETAINEES WHO ARE ESSENTIALLY SAYING WE'LL GUIDE YOU THROUGH THIS, WE WILL GUARD YOU AS YOU GO THROUGH HERE.

TALK ABOUT THOSE TYPE OF SITUATIONS.

YES, PRETTY UNHEARD OF, RIGHT?

YOU WALK INTO A JAIL FACILITY AND THERE'S SUPPOSED TO BE CORRECTION OFFICERS PROVIDING THE SECURITY AND ASSISTANCE TO CIVILIAN STAFFERS, BUT, YEAH, I SPOKE TO SOME EMPLOYEES THERE WHO WERE ENTERING THIS JAILHOUSE TO ADMINISTER SERVICES TO DETAINEES THERE, AND THEY DESCRIBED GOING INTO THE JAILHOUSE AND BEING INSTANTLY GREETED BY DETAINEES WHO WANT TO KNOW WHO THEY WERE, WHAT THEIR BUSINESS WAS THERE, WHO THEY WERE GOING TO SEE.

AND THEY WERE NOT THREATENING, THEY WERE JUST MORE CURIOUS.

AND THEY SAID TO THE EMPLOYEES, LOOK, WE'LL TAKE YOU THROUGH THE FACILITY AND PROVIDE PROTECTION ESSENTIALLY FROM PEOPLE WHO MAY WANT TO DO THEM HARM, AND, YOU KNOW, EVEN IN HAVING -- THE CIVILIAN STAFFERS DESCRIBE HAVING ONE IN A DOZEN DETAINEES SURROUNDING THEM, MORE THAN A DOZEN DETAINEES SURROUNDING THEM, EVEN WITH THAT QUOTE/UNQUOTE SECURITY, THERE WERE STILL INSTANCES IN WHICH THESE EMPLOYEES RECEIVED SOME SORT OF THREATENING REMARKS.

ONE PERSON WANTED TO KNOW WHERE ONE OF THE EMPLOYEES GOT THEIR GLASSES FROM AND SAID, ESSENTIALLY, HE WOULD LET THEM KEEP THEM.

SO IT STILL SPEAKS TO HOW DANGEROUS THE SITUATION IS THERE.

IT SHOULD NOT BE THAT WAY WHERE YOU HAVE DETAINEES ESSENTIALLY PROVIDING THE SECURITY THERE.

LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE REASONS, AND, AGAIN, THESE ARE THINGS YOU HAVE REPORTED ON.

AND I MENTIONED IN THE INTRODUCTION THE STAFFING ISSUES AT RIKERS.

EXPLAIN WHAT YOU HAVE FOUND IN TERMS OF STAFFING ISSUES.

SURE, SURE.

AS YOU SAID EARLIER, WE HAVE ROUGHLY A THIRD OF THE OFFICERS OUT SICK OR AWOL OR OTHERWISE JUST NOT SHOWING UP FOR WORK.

CORRECTION OFFICERS PROVIDE THE BASIC FUNCTION OF THE JAIL SYSTEM, RIGHT?

THEY'RE THE ONES WHO ESCORT PEOPLE TO AND FROM, TAKE DETAINEES TO MEDICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH APPOINTMENTS, TO COURT.

THEY ARE THE BACKBONE OF THE JAIL SYSTEM.

SO WITHOUT THEM, WE'RE SEEING A LOT OF WHAT WE ARE SEEING TODAY, WHICH IS JUST THIS COLLAPSE OF THE BASIC FUNCTIONS OF THE JAIL SYSTEM.

BUT, YOU KNOW, THIS IS SOMETHING THAT WE SAW BACK LAST YEAR AT THE HEIGHT OF THE PANDEMIC WHEN YOU HAD HUNDREDS OF OFFICERS GETTING SICK, SOME DYEING, AND THIS LED TO AN INCREDIBLE DROP IN MORALE AND JUST A LOT OF RESENTMENT BECAUSE OFFICERS DID NOT FEEL SUPPORTED BY THEIR SUPERVISORS, BY THE MAYOR, BY THE ADMINISTRATION, AND THAT HAS SPIRALED TO WHAT WE SEE TODAY, WHERE MORE THAN 1,600 OFFICERS ARE JUST NOT COMING IN.

SO HOW IS THE CITY DEALING WITH THAT?

I'M SURE MANY OF OUR READERS SAID, ALL RIGHT, I CAN UNDERSTAND THESE CASCADING PROBLEMS AND CERTAINLY THE PANDEMIC AND ILLNESS, BUT AT THIS STAGE NOW THAT WE'RE IN, I'M SURE PEOPLE ARE SAYING, WELL, HOW DOES THE CITY NOT HAVE CONTROL OF THAT?

THESE ARE EMPLOYEES, THAT THEY'RE NOT SHOWING UP FOR WORK.

WHY DON'T THEY JUST GET FIRED AND HIRE NEW ONES?

SOUNDS LIKE THE WAY TOO SIMPLISTIC ANSWER, OBVIOUSLY, BUT WHAT IS THE SCENARIO NOW IN TERMS OF HOW THE CITY IS DEALING WITH THE STAFFING ISSUE?

SURE, AND IT WOULD BE IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THESE OFFICERS HAVE UNLIMITED SICK TIME.

SO THAT WAS PART OF THE ISSUE IS JUST THE POLICY THERE, SO THE MAYOR THROUGH AN EMERGENCY ORDER HAD STARTED SUSPENDING CORRECTION OFFICERS WHO DO NOT PROVIDE A DOCTORS' NOTE AND THEY GET SUSPENDED 30 DAYS WITHOUT PAY.

THAT HAS RESULTED IN OVER 100 SUSPENSIONS AND WILL FROM THAT WE'VE SEEN PEOPLE JUST RESIGNING.

AND SO THAT HAS BEEN ONE TACTIC THAT THE CITY HAS BEEN TRYING TO USE TO GET PEOPLE TO COME BACK.

IT'S SEEN MINIMAL SUCCESS SO FAR.

IT SEEMS IT MAY BE IN SOME WAY SELF-DEFEATING IN WHICH IT UNDERSCORES THE PROBLEM THAT IF YOU TRY TO ENFORCE RESPONSIBILITY ON AUTHORITY, AND YOU END UP HAVING PEOPLE RESIGNED OR BEING SUSPENDED, YOU HAVE LESS PEOPLE IN THE BUILDING THAN YOU WOULD SEE OTHERWISE.

IN TALKING TO PEOPLE INSIDE OF THE STRUCTURE DURING YOUR REPORTING, AND YOU TALKED ABOUT THE FRUSTRATION LEVELS CERTAINLY FOR THE CORRECTIONS OFFICER, AND LET'S BEGIN WITH IT'S A TOUGH JOB.

THAT IS A VERY TOUGH JOB UNDER THE BEST OF CIRCUMSTANCES, AND CLEARLY THESE ARE NOT THE BEST OF CIRCUMSTANCES.

WHAT ARE YOU HEARING FROM OTHER PEOPLE WORKING INSIDE THE FACILITIES THERE, THEIR LEVELS OF FRUSTRATION, EVEN MAYBE THEIR LEVELS OF FEAR?

ABSOLUTELY.

I HEAR FROM MEDICAL STAFF, I INTERVIEWED A NURSE WHO HAD BEEN WORKING AT RIKERS I BELIEVE AROUND 19 YEARS.

AND SHE HAD NEVER SEEN THE FACILITY AT THE POINT THEY'RE AT NOW.

SHE ACTUALLY IS OUT ON LEAVE BECAUSE SHE WAS ASSAULTED BY A DETAINEE WHILE WORKING IN A MENTAL HEALTH BOARD, AND SHE FEELS LIKE THE CITY IS NOT DOING ENOUGH TO PROTECT NOT ONLY DETAINEES, OTHER DETAINEES BUT ALSO PEOPLE LIKE HER, WHO WANT TO COME IN AND DO THEIR JOBS.

CORRECTION OFFICERS WHO MY COLLEAGUE SPOKE TO ONE AND HAD TO TAKE COVER IN A CELL AFTER HE WAS ASSAULTED BY A DETAINEE WHO SLASHED HIS FACE.

YOU HAVE THESE EMPLOYEES, THESE STAFF MEMBERS SAYING THAT THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE JAILS RIGHT NOW IS JUST UNSAFE, IT'S UNSANITARY, THE SAME CONDITIONS THAT WE'RE HEARING DETAINEES DESCRIBE AND THAT THEY'RE ADVOCATES ARE TALKING ABOUT, IT'S THE SAME CONDITIONS THAT THESE OFFICERS AND MEDICAL STAFFERS AND OTHER EMPLOYEES HAVE TO WORK IN.

AND SO, YEAH, THERE IS THIS VERY REAL FEAR ABOUT WHAT THEIR AVERAGE DAY WILL BE LIKE EACH TIME THAT THEY WALK INTO THE JAILS.

ONCE AGAIN WE'RE TALKING TO 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER JAN RANSOM ABOUT THE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING OF WORK THAT HAS BEEN DONE BY 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' LOOKING AT THESE SITUATIONS HERE AND CIRCUMSTANCES AT RIKERS ISLAND.

WHAT ABOUT THE INFRASTRUCTURE?

YOU'VE WRITTEN ABOUT THE DETERIORATION, DETERIORATION OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE.

WHAT SORT OF ROLE HAS THAT BEEN PLAYING WITH REGARD TO ALL OF THESE ISSUES THAT YOU DESCRIBED FOR US?

OH, GOSH, IT'S HUGE.

YOU OFTEN DON'T THINK ABOUT VIOLENCE BEING CONNECTED TO THE ACTUAL PHYSICAL STRUCTURE OF A PLACE, BUT IT TOTALLY IS.

AND WE'VE SEEN THAT HAS BEEN DOCUMENTED FOR DECADES, THAT THE DETERIORATING BUILDING ON RIKERS ISLAND WHERE YOU HAVE PLEXIGLAS COMING DOWN, YOU HAVE PIECES OF METAL, THAT BEING FASHIONED INTO WEAPONS, AND WE HEARD ANECDOTALLY THERE'S BEEN AN INCREASE OF THIS HAPPENING BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE THE CORRECTIONS OFFICER THERE TO PROVIDE PROTECTION.

DETAINEES ARE FEELING LIKE THEY HAVE TO TAKE MATTERS INTO THEIR OWN HANDS AND PROTECT THEMSELVES.

AND SO WE HAVE SEEN STATISTICS THAT SHOW STABBINGS AND SLASHINGS ARE UP MORE THAN THEY HAVE BEEN RECENTLY, AND, AGAIN, HEARING ANECDOTALLY FROM DETAINEES WHO CALLED ME PERSONALLY, YEAH, THEY'RE CRAFTING WEAPONS, AGAIN, TO PROTECT THEMSELVES.

WHAT ABOUT THE POPULATION LEVEL SINCE YOU STARTED COVERING THIS IN 2017 UNTIL NOW, HOW HAS THAT CHANGED?

AND WHAT IS THE IMPACT, IF ANYTHING, ON THESE CONDITIONS?

SURE.

SO LAST YEAR AT THE HEIGHT OF THE PANDEMIC, THERE WAS THIS REAL GREAT EFFORT TO EMPTY OUT THE JAILS AND WE SAW THE POPULATION DROP TO ITS LOWEST LEVEL SINCE 1940s.

IT WAS ABOUT 3,900 DETAINEES WITHIN THE ENTIRE JAIL SYSTEM.

WE SAW AN INCREASE HATCH OVER THE SUMMER AND E AS THERE WAS A SLIGHT CHANGE TO THE BAIL LAWS AS WELL AS AN UPTICK IN CRIME AND JUST A RETHINKING IN TERMS OF HOW JUDGES DECIDED BAIL AND ALSO IN TERMS OF THE PROGRAMMING THAT WAS AVAILABLE, THAT WOULD HAVE HELPED IN SOME INSTANCES, SO WE SAW AN INCREASE IN THE JAIL POPULATION AT THAT POINT AND IT'S AT ITS LOWEST LEVEL STILL, BUT, YES, THAT'S WHAT WE ARE SEEING NOW, IS LOWER THAN IT'S BEEN IN RECENT YEARS.

AND YET IT SEEMS FAIRLY IRONIC THAT THE POPULATION LEVEL IS LOWERING AND YET THE LEVEL OF VIOLENCE AND TURMOIL WITHIN THE FACILITIES IS INCREASING.

WHY THE DISCONNECT, DO YOU THINK?

YEAH, AND THAT'S SOMETHING THE FEDERAL MONITOR HAS POINTED OUT, THAT IT DOESN'T MAKE A WHOLE LOT OF SENSE.

BUT THE ISSUE THAT HAS BEEN BROUGHT UP QUITE OFTEN IS MISMANAGEMENT.

AND THERE HAS BEEN A LONG TIME A DISCONNECT IN TERMS OF HOW THE MIDDLE MANAGERS AT THE JAIL SYSTEM COMMUNICATE, HOW TO RESPOND TO DIFFERENT SITUATIONS.

SO, FOR EXAMPLE, THE MONITORS POINT OUT THAT GUARDS ARE OFTEN TO BLAME IN TERMS OF NOT BEING ABLE TO RESPOND TO INSTANCES OF VIOLENCE BY DE-ESCALATION.

SO NOT USING SOME OF THOSE TECHNIQUES TO ADDRESS THE ISSUES THERE AND THAT SPIRALS OUT OF CONTROL.

AND SO THAT HAS BEEN SOME OF THE MAIN ISSUES THAT WE'VE BEEN SEEING.

WE'VE SEEN AND HEARD THE ADMINISTRATION REPEATEDLY SAY -- AND YOU MENTIONED SOME OF THIS A LITTLE BIT EARLIER IN OUR CONVERSATION, SAY YES, HERE ARE THE PROBLEMS AND HERE ARE THE STEPS WE'RE GOING TO TAKE TO ADDRESS THEM.

THEY'RE -- AND I WILL GET TO THIS IN A MOMENT WITH YOU, THE IDEA OF CLOSING IT DOWN COMPLETELY BUT LET'S FOCUS ON THE ADMINISTRATION'S STATEMENTS SAYING HERE'S WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO TO AFFECT CHANGE HERE.

HAS THE ADMINISTRATION FOLLOWED THROUGH ON THESE PROCLAMATIONS OF WHAT'S GOING TO BE DONE TO MAKE THESE CIRCUMSTANCES BETTER?

YES, SO THEY TRIED A NUMBER OF THINGS, OBVIOUSLY ADVOCATES FOR DETAINEES FEEL LIKE THE MAYOR HAS NOT DONE ENOUGH BUT HE MOVED TO TRANSFER SOME DETAINEES, FOR EXAMPLE, PEOPLE WHO WERE SERVING A YEAR OR LESS, HE'S MOVED THEM TO STAIN PRISON AS WELL AS WOMEN AND TRANS INDIVIDUALS TO STATE PRISONS IN AN EFFORT TO FREE UP SOME OF THE OFFICERS WORKING THOSE BUILDINGS, TO MOVE THEM TO BUILDINGS THAT ARE STRUGGLING.

AND SO HE'S TRIED TO MAKE SOME CHANGES THERE.

THERE HAVE BEEN EFFORTS TO DEAL WITH SOME VIOLENT SITUATIONS WITHIN THE JAILS, BUT THAT IS WHERE THE CITY HAS BEEN STRUGGLING THE MOST.

YOU MENTIONED A FEDERAL MONITOR HAS BEEN OVERSEEING, AT LEAST KEEPING AN EYE ON WHAT'S GOING ON HERE AND WE'VE SEEN RECENTLY, AS YOU REPORTED, A SUGGESTION BY A NUMBER OF LAWMAKERS WITHIN THE CITY AND THE STATE THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD STEP IN BECAUSE NOTHING IS GETTING DONE HERE.

IS THAT LIKELY AT ALL?

YOU KNOW, I THINK IT IS YET TO BE SEEN.

WE'VE SEEN THE FEDERAL MONITOR IS PUSHING FOR OTHER THINGS TO HAPPEN.

FOR EXAMPLE, HE'S ASKED THE COMMISSIONER TO FIND AN OUTSIDE SECURITY CONSULTANT TO HELP WITH MANAGING THE JAILS.

THEY'VE ALSO PUSHED FOR THE CITY COUNCIL AND FOR STATE LAWMAKERS TO ADDRESS LAWS THAT PREVENT THE CITY FROM HIRING WARDENS ELSEWHERE WITHIN THE CORRECTION COMMUNITY.

RIGHT NOW THERE'S A LAW THAT STATES THAT ANYONE WHO BECOMES A WARDEN -- NOW, WARDENS ARE PEOPLE WHO PROVIDE THE OVERALL SUPERVISION TO THE RANK AND FILE, AND ESSENTIALLY ARE CHARGED WITH MAKING SURE THAT REFORMS THAT ARE COMING FROM THE TOP, THAT ARE COMING FROM THE ADMINISTRATION, ARE ACTUALLY COMMUNICATED IN A CLEAR WAY TO THE RANK AND FILE AND THEN IMPLEMENTED AND ACTUALLY USED IN THE DAY TO DAY.

SO THE MONITOR WANTS THE CITY TO HAVE THE ABILITY TO GET PEOPLE ON THE OUTSIDE WHO CAN HELP MAKE THE REFORMS A REALITY.

LET ME GO BACK TO SOMETHING, I NEGLECTED TO ASK YOU THIS BEFORE WHEN WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE INCREASE IN VIOLENCE AND SOME OF THE SITUATIONS YOU WERE DESCRIBING.

HAVE WE ALSO SEEN -- WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT, ANOTHER QUESTION E. ON THE INCREASE IN VIOLENCE ON THE INCIDENTS OF DEATH TAKING PLACE WITHIN THE JAIL SYSTEM?

SO WELL WE'VE NOT SEEN NECESSARILY THE VIOLENCE HAS CAUSED THE INCREASE IN DEATH WE'VE SEEN THIS YEAR.

MORE SO WE'VE SEEN THAT THIS IS LIKELY THE RESULT OF NOT HAVING ENOUGH STAFFING.

SO AS OF FRIDAY, WE REACHED 13 DEATHS IN CUSTODY AT NEW YORK CITY JAILS, AND THAT INCLUDES FIVE SUICIDES.

THIS IS THE GREATEST NUMBER OF DEATHS THAT WE'VE SEEN SINCE 2016, AND IN SOME INSTANCES WE HEARD AT LEAST ONE PERSON WHO DIED WHO WAS BEGGING FOR MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR DAYS AND BEING NEGLECTED.

SO IT GOES BACK TO THIS ISSUE OF STAFF ABSENTEEISM AND FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN MONITORING THE SITUATION OR EVEN QUESTIONING AS TO WHETHER ANY OF THESE DEATHS COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED IF THERE WERE ADEQUATE STAFFING.

WE'VE HEARD OFTEN CONVERSATIONS ABOUT JUST SHUTTING DOWN RIKERS ISLAND AND MOVING TO A BUILDING -- I DON'T KNOW IF YOU WANT TO CALL THEM SATELLITE JAILS, BUT JUST OTHER FACILITIES IN OTHER LOCATIONS AROUND THE CITY, JUST TAKING IT AND SHUTTING IT DOWN.

WHERE ARE WE IN TERMS OF THOSE CONVERSATIONS AND THOSE POSSIBILITIES?

SO, AS YOU CAN IMAGINE, THE CONVERSATION AROUND CLOSING RIKERS HAS INTENSIFIED, RIGHT, AS WE CONTINUE TO SEE THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE DIE AND JUST HEARING ABOUT THESE CHAOTIC SCENES WITHIN THE JAIL SYSTEM.

THE DATE FOR THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENING HAS BEEN PUSHED BACK TO 2027, AND EVEN THAT DATE MAY BE PUSHED BACK FURTHER.

WE HAVE A NEW MAYOR COMING IN.

THE LIKELY MARE WILL BE ERIC ADAMS, WHO SAID HE SEAPORTS CLO -- SUPPORTS CLOSING RIKERS BUT HE'S NOT TOTALLY IN SUPPORT OF THE LOCATIONS FOR THESE JAILS TO BE REBASED IN THE BOROUGH.

SO THAT POSES THE QUESTION OF WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF CLOSING RIKERS?

WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF RIKERS?

I THINK THERE'S A LOT WE STILL DON'T KNOW HOW IT'S GOING TO PLAY OUT GOING FORWARD.

WHAT SORT OF PUSHBACK HAVE WE SEEN WITH REGARD TO THIS PROPOSAL FROM THE VARIOUS COMMUNITIES WHERE IT'S BEEN SUGGESTED THIS MIGHT BE A GOOD SITE TO BUILD ONE OF THESE JAILS, WHAT ARE WE HEARING FROM THOSE COMMUNITIES?

SURE, AS I THINK MANY PEOPLE EXPECTED WE'RE HEARING PUSHBACK, RIGHT, THIS IDEA OF NOT IN MY BACKYARD.

AND SO NO MATTER WHERE THE NEW FACILITIES WILL GO, THAT WILL STILL BE AN ISSUE, EVEN IF MR.

ADAMS COMES IN AND WANTS TO DO NEW LOCATIONS, THERE'S ALWAYS GOING TO BE THAT SORT OF PUSHBACK, THAT THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO NAVIGATE.

WHAT SORT OF IMPACT DO YOU THINK ALL OF THIS UNCERTAINTY ABOUT RIKERS, IS IT GOING TO CLOSE, IF IT IS, WHEN IS IT GOING TO CLOSE, WHERE IS EVERYBODY GOING TO GO, WHAT SORT OF IMPACT DO YOU THINK THIS UNCERTAINTY HAS HAD ON THESE INCREASING PROBLEMS THAT YOU DESCRIBED HERE?

A LOT.

I MEAN, BECAUSE THE SHIFT HAD GONE FROM RIKERS ITSELF TO CLOSING IT, WE SAW FAR LESS INVESTMENT IN THE BUILDINGS AND THE FACILITIES THERE.

AND, AGAIN, THAT GOES BACK TO, YOU KNOW, THE ISSUE OF THE DETERIORATION AND THE VIOLENCE AND THE WEAPONS AND JUST ALSO LIKE THIS PHYSICAL SPACE AND THE SORT OF -- THE SORT OF I GUESS FEELING THAT YOU GET IN BEING IN A PLACE THAT JUST ISN'T BEING CARED FOR.

IT'S KIND OF ALL CYCLICAL AND HAS PLAYED INTO THIS CULTURE OF VIOLENCE AND BRUTALITY THERE.

YOU SEE ANY ADDITIONAL CHANGES ON THE HORIZON IN TERMS OF LOWERING THE POPULATION, IF YOU WILL, EITHER THROUGH REVISING BAIL LAWS OR DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF WHO'S GOING TO BE HOUSED THERE?

WELL, WE SAW RECENTLY -- JUST AS RECENT AS LAST MONTH, THE GOVERNOR SIGNED A NEW BILL LESS IS MORE.

AND THIS WAS DESIGNED TO DEAL WITH A PORTION OF THE POPULATION THAT HAS BEEN HELD ON RIKERS WHERE PEOPLE WHO ARE ACCUSED OF VIOLATING PAROLE, AND A LOT OF TIMES -- PAROLE VIOLATORS, WHICH MEANS YOU EITHER FAILED TO MEET WITH YOUR PAROLE OFFICER OR MAYBE YOU WERE COMING IN TOO LATE PAST CURFEW, AND SO UNDER THIS NEW LAW THE GOVERNOR SIGNED, THIS ALLOWS FOR A COUPLE HUNDRED PEOPLE TO BE RELEASED.

SO WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO SEE THAT POPULATION SPENDING FAR LESS, IF ANY, TIME ON RIKERS.

SO THERE'S BEEN AN EFFORT THERE AS WELL AS SOME OF THE TRANSFERS THAT I MENTIONED EARLIER TO PRISON FACILITIES, THE TRANSFERS OF WOMEN, DETAINEES COME AND THIS IS ALL IN AN EFFORT TO EMPTY OUT THE JAILS.

LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, GOT ABOUT A MINUTE, LITTLE MORE THAN A MINUTE HERE.

AS I MENTIONED, YOU'VE BEEN CHRONICLING THIS IN 2017.

YOU HAVE WRITTEN EXTENSIVELY, YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES AT 'THE NEW YORK TIMES,' THE INVESTIGATION INTO THIS.

ARE YOU -- ARE YOU SEEING -- YOU DESCRIBED A LITTLE BIT BUT ARE YOU SEEING IMPROVEMENTS, AND MAYBE MORE IMPORTANT, ARE YOU SEEING ANY KIND OF LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL WHERE THERE MIGHT BE SOME REAL TRACTION GAINED HERE IN TERMS OF REMEDYING THESE ISSUES?

NOT YET, NOT YET.

IN SOME WAYS, YOU KNOW, THE COMMISSIONER AND MAYOR AND OTHER CITY OFFICIALS ARE REALLY TRYING TO ADDRESS THE SITUATION BUT I DON'T SEE ANY OF THOSE EFFORTS MAKING A HUGE DIFFERENCE JUST YET.

WELL ONCE AGAIN, JAN RANSOM, EXECUTIVE REPORTER FROM 'THE NEW YORK TIMES.'

THE INVESTIGATION, THE REPORTING THAT YOU ALL HAVE BEEN DOING HAS BEEN EXCEPTIONAL AND REVEALING, WHICH IS PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANT.

I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR SPENDING SOME TIME WITH US AND COMPLIMENT YOU ON THE GREAT JOURNALISTIC WORK YOU'VE BEEN DOING.

LOOKING FORWARD TO TALK TO YOU AGAIN DOWN THE ROAD AS WE SEE HOW THIS ALL CONTINUES.

JAN, THANK YOU AGAIN.

YOU BE WELL.

THANK YOU, YOU TOO.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION,

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