A Manhattan federal decide dealt a blow to advocates for Rikers Island prisoners on Thursday, barring the Legal Aid Society from requesting a federal takeover of the Big Apple’s troubled jail system.
Judge Laura Taylor shot down a request from town’s largest authorized help nonprofit that it’s allowed to formally foyer for the appointment of a “receiver” — or third-party administrator — to supervise Rikers Island and different metropolis Department of Correction services.
While Swain mentioned she stays deeply involved about questions of safety at Rikers, the appointment of a receiver might divert sources away from conserving inmates secure and could possibly be counter productive, she famous.
Allowing Legal Aid to argue for the receivership can be “premature and inconsistent with the legal restraints,” the decide added on the finish of the prolonged listening to on Thursday.
Legal Aid lawyer Mary Lynne Werlwas had pleaded with Swain to think about the group’s argument for a receiver, arguing that seven years have handed since a federal monitor was appointed to institute reforms on the jail.
“Continuing down the same path cannot and will not bring relief to the plaintiff class,” Werlwas, who represents prisoners on the jail complicated, advised the decide.
The disaster within the metropolis jails — the place 18 individuals have died this yr — has endured all through a lot of City Hall administrations, that are influenced by politics and considerations of constituents, she argued.
A federal receiver, Werlwas mentioned, wouldn’t be topic to political whims, however slightly accountable to the court docket.
“A receiver is an extraordinary remedy but these are extraordinary facts,” she mentioned.
Swain, nonetheless, cited proof from an October report by the federal monitor appointed to evaluate situations on the lockup which confirmed some progress had been made on the complicated.
“The Department’s leadership team has demonstrated their understanding of both
the big picture of what must be achieved and the nuance and sequence of all the things that must change to achieve it,” the report discovered.
The DOC has efficiently stuffed a lot of management roles up to now yr, together with an government director and 11 assistant commissioners, the report states.
At the listening to, DOC Commissioner Louis Molina mentioned they’ve additionally employed a self-harm prevention advisor that he mentioned he hopes will assist cease suicides in the complex.
Federal authorities from the Southern District of New York mentioned they’d not be backing Legal Aid’s present bid for a receiver, however reserved the best to take action sooner or later.
SDNY lawyer Jeffrey Powell mentioned the workplace stays “frustrated” by how lengthy it’s taken to make progress on the jail, however added some reforms have been made.
“There appears to be at least some glimmer of hope that progress may be on the horizon,” he mentioned.
In an announcement, Legal Aid mentioned it was dismayed by the decide’s resolution.
“We are disappointed that the Court would not allow Plaintiffs to present their case for the appointment of a receiver, but appreciate the Court’s demand of the City for swift and serious action,” the assertion mentioned. “The Legal Aid Society will continue to hold the City accountable for the violence and abuse that our incarcerated clients suffer every day.”
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