With a short order issued on Tuesday, Manhattan federal judge Laura Taylor Swain decided to give the city and the Department of Corrections the benefit of the doubt as they insist that the city’s new course of action town is a veritable plan to reverse Rikers Island’s descent into chaos and death. .
We continue to believe that federal receivership is the best approach, but that’s up to the judge to decide. Now that the order has been sent, it falls to DOC officials and City Hall overseers – a group illustrating the “limited skills of many who must lead the necessary transformation,” as the caustically wrote. Federal Monitor Steve Martin in his letter of introduction. for the initial draft of the plan – to prove the skeptics wrong.
Swain here accepts the city’s assertion that the goals listed in the plan, which are themselves a little vague for our liking, are “entirely within the power of the commissioner, and more broadly the mayor, to execute.” It’s a welcome commitment, but represents an about-face from the city’s longstanding position that legal and contractual entanglements were hampering its efforts to rein in its absent and incompetent workforce or take other steps to quickly improve the situation.
Either former administrators made excuses while inmates suffered and died, or the current administration overestimates its ability to overcome legal hurdles. In all cases, he must demonstrate that he can fulfill these commitments and ask the court to intervene if he encounters insurmountable ones.
As it stands, the city will have until October 28 to file a new report before a status update and subsequent conference in mid-November. That means he has just over four months to take the plan from concept to reality. While the oversight team will no doubt continue to issue its own notices, the city should commit to real transparency not just with the court but with the general public. Rikers is an embarrassment to all New Yorkers, and everyone should be able to track progress.