There are indications that the pandemic is entering a new phase which will affect the city more than anyone can reasonably predict. And yet, the current realities of a $5.4-billion budget crisis, increased numbers of incarcerated individuals, and the continued loss of uniformed and non-uniformed Correction Department staff is being ignored.

The de Blasio administration is leaving the next administration in an Edward Koch and David Dinkinsscenario. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the War on Drugs/Crimes/Gangs left NYC jails unprepared for the influx of people incarcerated. Each administration was forced to hire and purchase jail barges to handle the overflow. The inmate population grew to 22,000, while the number of correction officers reached 12,000.

In October 2019, the City Council and Mayor agreed to close Rikers Island as a correctional facility by 2026 and open four new borough-based jails with a planned capacity of 3,300. this July 12, Mayor de Blasio said, “we’ve been able to close down another building at Rikers and therefore not need as many officers to cover the inmates we have.” The closing, decommissioning and transferring of Department of Correction facilities has removed 3,200 beds from the inventory of the incoming Mayor. There are also 1,297 damaged beds/cells, leaving the incoming administration with fewer than 1,912 usable beds for the detainee population.

Newly appointed Commissioner Schiraldi has ignored the 4-5-percent increase in the inmate population since his June 1 appointment. While the number of detainees continues to grow, DOC has lost 20 percent of its uniformed and non-uniformed staff because of unsafe conditions and questionable management.

The next mayoral administration is facing a $5.4-billion deficit, massive job losses and billions lost in tax revenues. Under the best circumstances, closing Rikers is going to be a complex undertaking. To spend $8.7 billion to build jails in
the face of that deficit is fiscally irresponsible. the incoming administration must reevaluate the closing of Rikers Island.

As New Yorkers call for safer streets, and both Democratic and Republican candidates focus on gun crimes and gang activity, it is expected that the jail population will increase 16-20 percent. The jail system cannot accommodate this increase. The population has increased 47.3 percent since July 2020, when it was 3,927. As of July 2021, the census
was 5,784. More than 85 percent of these individuals have felony charges; nearly 40 percent face “A” and “B” felony crimes. We can assume that if further changes are made to bail reform, there will be more arrests made. But the DOC is
ill-equipped to accommodate the push to get criminals off the street.

There is no way for the next administration to achieve social and economic development without addressing the unsafe environment in the streets and jails. the next Mayor cannot reduce crime by decree. However, he can help by ensuring that capacities of the jails can humanely contain wrongdoers.

Elias Husamudeen
Past President
Correction Officers’ Benevolent