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NYC Mayor calls for NYPD help, punishments for 'AWOL' correction officers as Rikers Island faces 'crisis'
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Just one day after state and local elected officials toured beleaguered Rikers Island and reported back with details of "inhumanity" and a "humanitarian crises" – and an instance where an inmate attempted suicide – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio enacted a "relief plan."
The outgoing mayor has often been criticized by the correction officers’ union for his lack of attention to the sprawling Department of Corrections facility. He changed course on Tuesday, when he announced that New York City "will take any action necessary to keep everyone safe throughout the justice system."
Correction Officers' Benevolent Association (COBA) President Benny Boscio, and an anonymous correction officer described to Fox News how officers are sometimes working 25-plus hour shifts, in dangerous conditions, including facilities that have damaged or unusable equipment and with inmates who know they have the upper hand.
"There’s no place to hide anymore," said one Rikers Island corrections officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of repercussions and before de Blasio announced he would be stepping in. "We're under so much stress because we don't understand why no one is helping us.
Meanwhile, the Department of Corrections (DOC) has said its officers are often no-shows for work without even calling, describing them as "AWOL." The DOC told Fox News in August that the department has unlimited sick leave, but saw a 300% jump in the number of officers who are skipping out on work without calling in July 2021 compared to July 2020. The agency consists of roughly 8,500 total uniformed personnel.
De Blasio’s "emergency Rikers Relief Plan" will "toughen accountability for AWOL staffers" by issuing a 30-day suspension to those who skip out on work without a justifiable cause. It also calls on the New York Police Department to take over some DOC tasks in courts, with the intention of moving the correction officers who typically worked in courts back to Rikers Island.