NEW YORK CITY — Rikers Island staff may have tampered with intake data to hide the fact new detainees were held too long in cramped intake cells, the Legal Aid Society announced Monday.
The public defenders group released documents showing new detainees at Riker’s Eric M. Taylor Center were held for more than 24 hours in quarters without bathrooms, beds or access to food and medicine, a Legal Aid Society spokesperson said.
“This seriously diminishes the credibility of the City’s public assertions that they have solved their long-standing problem of holding people for days in these uninhabitable areas,” said Legal Aid staff attorney Kayla Simpson. “The public deserves answers.”
Patch did not receive an immediate response to our request for comment, but a spokesperson for the city’s Correction department issued a statement to New York Focus.
“We hold transparency and integrity in high regard,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to hold staff accountable so that our jails are run efficiently and that people in our custody are safe.”
The documents in question — obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request — pertain to city regulations that mandate jails process and house people within 24 hours of coming into custody.
The Eric M. Taylor Center became the main facility for men’s intake in 2021 after a federal judge issued an order requiring the DOC to limit intake stays to 24 hours.
But Legal Aid said the newly released records show at least 17 incidents over a two days in June when the admissions data was altered to extend expiration dates.
Changes to the data occurred when a newly-admitted person in custody was approaching the 24-hour limit and, in some instances, following the expiration, according to the analysis.
The New York City Board of Correction wrote a letter addressed to the EMTC’s acting warden in July declaring that the board staff was closely monitoring the conditions in the intake center, records released by Legal Aid show.
“Over the past few days, we have documented 17 incidents where a person in custody in the EMTC intake had their ‘In Custody at Court’ start time (the time reported on their Securing
Order) changed on the DOC’s Intake Dashboard,” the letter states.
“Some people in custody had their custody start time changed multiple times over the course of several hours.”
The report comes as federal monitors are laser-focused on conditions at Rikers Island, which have been described as a “humanitarian crisis” amid the dangerous and deteriorated conditions at the correctional facility. Staffing shortages and overcrowding compounded during the pandemic, exacerbating the already-dire conditions at the facility.
Rikers Island has recorded a stark amount of deaths in the facility this year, jumping to 16 people by last month, according to the New York Times. That’s the same amount of people who died in the facility in 2021, which saw the most deaths since 2013.
Officials are considering placing the jail under federal control if the city fails to improve the facilities.
The “Final Action Plan,” submitted to federal judge Laura T. Swain this summer, is intended to lead to “meaningful reform.” The Correction department and the city will appear before the judge to argue that it’s been complying to this plan.
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