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CBS New York gets exclusive look at Rikers Island inmate care center at Bellevue Hospital

CBS New York gets exclusive look at Rikers Island inmate care center at Bellevue Hospital
CBS New York gets exclusive look at Rikers Island inmate care center at Bellevue Hospital 03:11

NEW YORK -- With the threat of a federal takeover of Rikers Island still hanging over his head, Mayor Eric Adams has unveiled a number of new initiatives to provide greater care and enhanced programming for inmates.

The mayor also released two feasibility studies on the potential use of the troubled jail complex after it closes.

It's clear that Adams is in overdrive, working to change conditions at Rikers and avoid a federal takeover. One of his initiatives is building a special care center at area hospitals, where inmates will live until they are well.

CBS New York's Marcia Kramer went on a tour of one being built at Bellevue Hospital.

"To my knowledge, nobody has done this anywhere else," said Patsy Yang, senior vice president of NYC Health + Hospitals for Correction Health Services.

Yang was over the edge excited to show Kramer the new 104-bed inmate health care center being built at Bellevue, one of three the Adams administration is building so that inmates in need of care can stay in a hospital until they are well.

"The arduous trip back and forth from Rikers to the hospital, for what may be a few minutes of care, is so daunting that if you are feeling sick and weak, that is just too much for you to ambulate and to undergo, and some may decline a life-saving service," Yang said.

The facility will have some dormitory-style treatment facilities, as well as private rooms, and there will also be a new outdoor recreation area.

"There will be a basketball court," Yang said.

The Bellevue site will open this spring. Two others, at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn and North Central Bronx, are scheduled to come on-line in 2027.

But that's not all. The mayor is investing $14 million for new program initiatives for the 6,300 inmates on Rikers, including:

  • Treatment for inmates with mental health issues
  • Transition planning for inmates about to re-enter society
  • New supplemental education programs for English learners, high school diploma preparation, and college readiness

Francis Torres, the first deputy commissioner of the Department of Correction, said she thinks the initiatives send an important message to the judge in the federal case that the Adams administration is more than capable of running the jail.

"It demonstrates our commitment. It demonstrates that we are forever evaluating what we need to do and establishing the necessary protocols to get there," Torres said.

And with Rikers scheduled to close in the next few years, the mayor released feasibility studies on what can be done with the jail complex's 415 acres. One evaluates the possibility of using the land for clean energy goals like solar and wind power, while the other addresses building a new waste water treatment plant.

"What's important about both of the studies is they highlight our overall infrastructure need to future-proof New York City," Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi said.

It's clear that there is going to be a lot of debate about what to do with Rikers. Some want to build housing. Others want to extend the runway at LaGuardia Airport. The sustainability projects would each cost about $30 billion, which, no mater how you look at it, is a whole lot of moolah.

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