There are two things that most residents of New York City seem to agree on these days. The first is that the crime rate continues to be out of control and something needs to be done about it. The next person anticipated to be Mayor of Gotham won his primary race on a promise to beef up the NYPD and start putting more criminals in jail. The second thing most Big Apple denizens seem to realize is that even when we do manage to catch some of these criminals, they are back out on the streets in record time and free to add to the city’s burgeoning recidivism numbers. So what does Mayor Bill de Blasio plan to do about these problems in the few months he has left in office? He’s opting to go with the obvious solution and release hundreds of more prisoners from Rikers Island. What could possibly go wrong? (NY Post)
Hundreds of inmates serving time on Rikers Island are set to be sprung prematurely as part of a desperate bid by Mayor Bill de Blasio to deal with the shortage of correction officers willing to work there, The Post has learned.
The horde of ex-cons — who could be freed starting Tuesday — would comprise the second wave of convicted criminals granted early release since last year, when officials used the COVID-19 pandemic to justify putting around 300 jailbirds back on the streets.
Those inmates were among more than 1,500 who were freed last year due to the coronavirus crisis, reducing the city’s jail population to 4,363 — a level not seen since in more than 70 years.
The problem that de Blasio is supposedly trying to address is a very real one. Conditions at Rikers Island are so bad that the guards assigned there walked out in a massive protest last month. Nearly one-fifth of the guards were out on extended “sick leave” at the end of last month and many more simply failed to show up without calling in and giving a reason.
But the solution to a problem caused by not having enough guards is to hire more guards to relieve the pressure and improve the working conditions. The answer is not to simply start throwing open the doors of the cells and wait to see what happens next.
As the Post points out, this won’t be the first large-scale prisoner release at Rikers under de Blasio’s reign. They set loose more than 300 from that facility last year, using COVID as an excuse. Those were among the more than 1,500 released from jails across the city. Pretty much every prisoner who could be somehow classified as “non-violent” (and they stretched the definition of that term a long way) was cut loose. The ones that are left include many of the “worst of the worst.” We’re talking about career burglars, people found dealing drugs on school grounds, those convicted of gun crimes, sex crimes, and shootings. As one Rikers source told the Post, there’s nobody in there “for shoplifting.”
The Mayor’s office is intentionally keeping the full list of names of prisoners to be released under wraps until after they’ve been freed. He allegedly is trying to forestall the massive blowback he received the last time he caved to the “empty the jails” movement. But he needs to be careful. There are already rumors circulating that de Blasio is seriously looking at a run for governor to replace Kathy Hochul. But that move would mean he would need to win a lot of votes from the upstate region, not just in New York City. And the more conservative upstate voters are even more upset about the spiraling crime rates than the people in the city are.