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Mayor De Blasio Facing Pressure To Visit Rikers Island Amid Calls For Reform From Both Republican, Democratic Leaders

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Republican leaders got a first-hand look Thursday at the troubling conditions inside the Rikers Island jail complex.

They're now joining Democratic colleagues in calling for reforms, all while Mayor Bill de Blasio faces new pressure to visit Rikers himself.

As CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reports, the mayor joined Gov. Kathy Hochul posing for pictures with the British royals, Prince Harry and Meghan, at One World Observatory in Lower Manhattan.

What's not on the mayor's agenda is a visit to Rikers Island in the midst of what's being described as a humanitarian crisis.

"We're getting a lot of results done. That's where my focus is now. I'll be touring it, but I want to get these pieces in place first before I go out there," de Blasio said.

It's a move being criticized by fellow politicians from both parties.

"I couldn't imagine wanting to hang out with Harry and Meghan when you have people in your custody that are dying from a lack of staffing," Councilman Joe Borelli said.

Borelli joined local and state Republican leaders, adding to a growing list of politicians, to tour the city jail complex.

But their calls for the mayor to hire more correction officers and concerns about community safety after the governor's mandated release of parolees held on non-violent offenses was drowned out by the chants of inmate advocates.

"Starting with a plan to reform and renovate those buildings there and then going on to getting a realistic staff number, a realistic idea about what services should be here," Borelli said.

Thursday, de Blasio touted progress, saying expedited detainee processing, overcrowding and widespread staff sick-outs were all being addressed.

The mayor has the power to provide low-level offenders with short sentences, an early release into a program -- powers de Blasio exercised last year when COVID cases were rampant in the jail -- but he's been hesitant to renew that effort.

"Anyone we think we can release who does not pose a safety threat, we're always going to look at that," de Blasio said.

But what's unifying critics is the call for the mayor to visit Rikers himself and, they say, see even more needs to be done.

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