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New York Lawmakers Call On Gov. Hochul To Release More Rikers Island Detainees

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York lawmakers are calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to release more detainees from Rikers Island.

Advocates say measures taken to address the problems are not going far enough, CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Thursday.

"I'm the elected official who's done the most to assist this situation in Rikers because it is a tinderbox," Hochul said.

Nearly 45 state lawmakers are asking the governor to do more. In a letter, they said they want 164 additional parolees held on non-violent, technical violations released - doubling the number of those being let out under the newly signed Less Is More Act.

"If they want to come back to Albany, once again, and change the effective date of what they wrote, let's have that conversation," said Hochul.

In contrast, Mayor Bill de Blasio is hesitant to authorize other releases, citing safety concerns, despite using the same powers during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have to factor in both what we're trying to achieve in Rikers and what we're trying to achieve in communities. It is not the same situation as 2020," de Blasio said.

On Wednesday, Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi exclusively showed CBS2 renovations underway on Rikers Island, starting in the young adult facility that is the most violent.

The renovations, along with dedicated staff and programming, are meant to address the mounting violence.

"I'm really concerned with all of the other units in the facility and how they're ran and how they're staffed," said Minister Dr. Victoria Phillips, co-chair of the Department of Correction Young Adult Task Force. "Even in RNDC, there are still cells that don't lock."

Public defender Sergio De La Pava said conditions are dire.

"We're still not satisfied with what the response has been," said De La Pava. "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. What we see is that we keep sending people to that island every day."

A federal judge will now monitor the conditions on Rikers Island more closely.

New guidelines include requiring the creation of a safety plan and mandating staff to follow suicide prevention protocols.

State lawmakers plan to take up the issue about conditions at Rikers on Friday. Many have toured the facilities to see the problems firsthand.

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