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NYC closing Rikers Island facility over staffing crisis

The Department of Correction will “immediately” shut down a housing facility on Rikers Island amid an agency-wide staffing crisis that’s created deplorable and unsafe conditions at the jail’s admissions building, internal records released Friday show. 

The Otis Bantum Correctional Facility, which housed 152 people at the start of June, will close Friday so the DOC can redeploy staff to other facilities across the troubled jail complex, DOC Commissioner Louis Molina announced in an internal memo Friday morning. 

“Effective immediately, we will be closing facility operations at … OBCC. Closing OBCC will allow us to redeploy staff where needed, consolidate and streamline operations, increase safety and better serve people in custody,” Molina wrote in the memo, obtained by The Post. 

“Both uniform and non-uniform staff will be transferred to other facilities where they are most needed.” 

The news comes three days after the Board of Correction revealed the jail’s intake unit at the Eric M. Taylor Center is rife with issues, including the same violations that forced the last admissions building to shut down nine months ago. 

The DOC announced it will shut down the Otis Bantum Correctional Facility due to a staffing shortage and unsafe conditions.
AFP via Getty Images

A board member who visited EMTC said more than a hundred “screaming men” were crammed into pens for days on end as they waited to be assigned a housing unit, a process the DOC is required to complete within 24 hours. 

The detainees had limited access to bathrooms, medicine, phone calls and transport to court because of staffing issues at the intake unit, board members said. 

Meanwhile, most new DOC admissions haven’t been undergoing body scans to check for drugs, weapons or other contraband upon their arrival because there aren’t enough trained staff around to do the job, board members said. 

The Otis Bantum Correctional Facility housed 152 people as of June.
The Otis Bantum Correctional Facility housed 152 people as of June.
Most new DOC admissions aren't being body scanned to check for weapons and drugs due to a staff shortage.
Most new DOC admissions aren’t being body scanned to check for weapons and drugs due to a staff shortage.

Now that OBCC is shutting down, staff who manned the facility will potentially be redeployed to EMTC to help tamp down the issues. 

Molina acknowledged in his Friday memo the announcement “might be … unexpected” but the agency believes it’s “the best path forward.”

Rumors of the facility’s closure started rumbling through the jail on Thursday when staffers started to see detainees being moved to other facilities. 

Rikers Island
The closure came soon after the DOC admitted the Eric M. Taylor Center is rife with issues, including overcrowding.

One high-ranking jailhouse source griped that intake operations should be moved to each housing unit, rather than having a facility solely for admissions. 

“Once you open up a whole jail, you need a lot of staff to function that jail. Not just in the housing areas, you need staff for the corridors, to run [recreation], to run the clinic, mental health, kitchen, sanitation, just everything. We don’t have the staff to do that,” the source said. 

“Every inmate can just go to the jail they are assigned to and do the intake process in their jail … that’s how you fix the problem.”

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