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Mayor Bill De Blasio: 'It's A Very Bad Situation' In NYC Jails

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Amid continued scrutiny of problems at Rikers Island and other New York City jails, Mayor Bill de Blasio said bluntly that the situation in the city's Correction Department is "very bad."

Speaking to reporters following remarks at the United Nations on Tuesday, de Blasio reiterated that his administration inherited "an incredibly problematic situation" in the nation's second-largest jails system.

"It's going to take a lot of work to fix," de Blasio said. "One thing we'll always do is tell you bluntly just how bad it is. It's a very bad situation."

De Blasio said changes have already been implemented, but more work needs to be done.

He pointed to his naming of a reform-minded corrections commissioner, allotment of $32.5 million in the budget and a new approach to guard training and supervision.

"I am clear and sober about the fact that this is a very thorny situation," the mayor said. "The way things were done in the past is not a milestone for us or a paradigm for us. We are going to look at this from scratch and do everything we can to fix the situation."

De Blasio was responding to comments made by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan on Monday, who warned he may take legal action to force meaningful reforms.

"We're not mincing words about it, it's an unacceptable situation," he said.

Mayor Bill De Blasio: 'It's A Very Bad Situation' In NYC Jails

Bharara's warning came after The New York Times reported that a confidential report showed that the city omitted hundreds of inmate fights from statistics turned over to federal authorities investigating possible civil rights violations. The newspaper also said the jail supervisors involved in the report had been promoted.

"We stand ready to take legal action to compel long-overdue reforms at Rikers, if that becomes necessary to get the job done," Bharara said.

Last month, Bharara issued a scathing review of conditions for adolescent Rikers inmates. The report found juvenile jails are extremely violent and unsafe, the result of a deeply ingrained culture of violence in which guards routinely violate constitutional rights of teenage inmates and subject them to "rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force."

New York's jails have come under increasing scrutiny since The Associated Press first exposed the deaths of two seriously mentally ill inmates earlier this year — one who died of hyperthermia in a 101-degree cell and another diabetic inmate who sexually mutilated himself while locked alone for seven days inside a cell last fall. Nearly 40 percent of the roughly 11,500 daily inmates have a mental health diagnosis.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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