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CBS2 gets exclusive look at Rikers Island security tapes mentioned in federal monitor's scathing report on city jail

CBS2 gets exclusive look at Rikers Island videos
CBS2 gets exclusive look at Rikers Island videos 03:09

NEW YORK -- Mayor Eric Adams and Department of Correction Commissioner Louis Molina, under attack by a federal monitor over the running of Rikers Island, offered a stunning and unusual defense Monday. 

They invited CBS2 exclusively to see the videos in question in the monitor's report. 

"What we inherited in 2022 was a mess and we're turning that mess around," Adams said. 

The mayor mounted an unusual defense of his administration's handling of Rikers by inviting CBS2's Marcia Kramer to review 90 minutes of security camera footage from inside the troubled jail. 

The private screening, which Kramer was not allowed to record, but took notes on, followed a scathing critique from the federal monitor, who found fault with the Department of Correction and Molina for five "serious and disturbing" instances in which detainees were injured or fell ill over a two-week period.   

Molina contends the monitor's findings about safety and transparency at the jail are off base. 

"We wanted to show that we have nothing to hide," said Molina. "We think that these incidents not only portray the level of restraint and empathy that we have moved this department to under this administration. We think they also show a level of environmental improvement and cleanliness of our facilities." 

Adams named Molina to head the Department of Correction at the start of his term, following one of the worst crises at the jail in decades. Sixteen people died at Rikers in 2021, during the de Blasio administration. 

Since taking office, Molina has reduced use-of-force incidents by 14% and cut officer absentee rates from a high of about 2,600 per day at the height of the COVID pandemic to 71 as of June 7, according to the department. 

The Point: DOC Commissioner Louis Molina on fixing Rikers Island 19:07

Adams hasn't held back on criticizing the federal monitor's report and continues to support Molina. 

"I looked at the tapes and I said there has to be more, because clearly those tapes do not indicate dangerous conditions and unsafe practices. It actually showed just the opposite," Adams said. 

The monitor's report touched off a frenzy and calls for action at Rikers

"This administration did not create the long-standing issues on Rikers Island. But despite efforts that they're undertaking, there still seem to be some long-standing patterns of harm for everybody on Rikers Island, which has not been cured yet," New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said. 

Williams and Comptroller Brad Lander are calling for the jail system to be put in receivership, a move Adams says is unfair because of the strides Molina has made. 

"The numbers are showing how we're moving in the right direction. We had previous administrations that were doing just the opposite," Adams said. 

The city is expected to argue in court that it should be allowed to continue running Rikers Island as soon as Tuesday. 

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