Acting New York City correction commissioner Louis Molina has been criticized by the federal monitor overseeing the Rikers Island jail complex, who said that under his leadership violence there remained unabated and that officials were hiding information about it, the New York Times reports. “The commitment to effective collaboration, as evidenced by the department’s recent performance, has deteriorated,” the monitor, Steve Martin, told a federal court. “The department’s approach to reform has recently become characterized by inaccuracies and a lack of transparency.” Correction Department spokesman Frank Dwye, said the number of in-custody deaths and slashings and stabbings had declined under Molina’s leadership and accused Martin of appearing to “move the goalposts” by comparing those figures to pre-pandemic times.
Thursday’s monitoring report was issued as Molina was facing intense pressure to turn around one of the worst crises to grip Rikers Island in decades. Appointed by Mayor Eric Adams in January 2022, Molina inherited chronic staff absenteeism that had peaked during the coronavirus pandemic and soaring rates of violence and neglect at the jail complex. More recently, he has had to battle calls for a federal takeover of Rikers Island, avoiding that fate last year in part by promising in federal court to follow a plan to enact reforms. As scrutiny of his department has intensified, Molina has taken steps that limit the public release of potentially damaging information, revoking a jails oversight panel’s unrestricted access to video footage from Rikers Island and reversing his predecessor’s policy of notifying the public when deaths occur in custody. The federal monitor detailed five “serious and disturbing” instances over a two-week period this spring in which detainees were injured or fell ill. The events, Martin wrote, were not appropriately reported by jail staff and were unknown to his team until reporters asked about them.