Nick Pinto, a reporter for The Intercept, told Hill.TV that the recent string of deaths and suicides at Rikers Island in New York follows years of concerted efforts to keep the facility open despite reports of brutal conditions.
“Rikers is a jail complex on an island completely out of sight where we’ve been putting the human manifestations of our social failures for a long time out of sight where nobody can see them,” Pinto said on Hill.TV’s “Rising.”
More than 10 people have died at the complex this year, The New York Times reported.
Pinto said New York City’s police commissioner has been “skeptical” of plans to close the facility, which primarily houses people awaiting trial, and has taken part in a “pressure campaign” to lock up more people.
“There is not a powerful political constituency that demands humane conditions on Rikers,” Pinto added.
As the situation has gained attention, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) ordered 191 inmates from Rikers Island to be released last month amid a severe staffing shortage, high coronavirus rates and overcrowding. Some congressional Democrats from the state’s delegation have called for the facility to be closed, according to the The Associated Press.
Pinto said the jail guard union has called for more guards to address the situation in the long term while some have also placed blame on poor management.
“Decarceration is by many accounts, including those of the medical staff working on Rikers, the only immediate action that can take place that will protect people from the dangers of Rikers,” Pinto said.