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Videos show fights, wild parties and drug use at Rikers Island amid staff shortages

Inmates were previously forced to run two unguarded units at the prison facility.

Rikers Island Getty Images

Lack of supervision resulting from the staff shortages in Rikers Island have created a hectic environment at the prison facility. According to the New York Post, videos taken from inmates’ cell phones have captured detainees amid brutal fights, partying sessions and drug and alcohol use.

In a clip that surfaced on Sunday night (Sept. 6), three inmates were filmed as they randomly attacked another guy in a fight that may have been gang-related. According to President Patrick of the Correction Captains’ Association, 22 officers worked triple shifts that day, leaving at least 33 posts without guards.

A second video, which was posted on TikTok, shows a group of men in the Robert N. Davoren Complex throwing a cell party complete with cigarettes, bottles and rap music. The men, according to the clip, danced as they turned up. Hours later, after the Department of Corrections found out about the footage, they were moved to another section of the prison.

Since a large number of correction officers at Rikers have been calling out sick and failing to report to work, guards who do show up have been assigned very long shifts and are forced to work in grueling heat with barely any food or lunch breaks. The shortage in staff previously forced inmates to run two units. Now, according to the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the shortages also lead to easy transfers of contraband as very few cops are around to conduct thorough and necessary searches.

The inmates’ drug use has subsequently resulted in several overdoses and medical emergencies. “We have at least three medical emergencies a day from inmates doing drugs. I’m not sure what they’re taking but it’s definitely not marijuana,” a Rikers source told the Post. “I had a medical emergency in my housing area, the inmate was hallucinating and foaming at the mouth.” In another instance, 24-year-old Esias Johnson was found dead in his cell after an apparent overdose.

In a recently-released statement, DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi promised that the agency was putting in place actions “to address the current conditions in our facilities, to improve safety and to encourage staff to return to work.”

“We are deeply concerned about what is occurring and won’t rest until we create an environment at Rikers in which people feel safe to work and live,” he continued, adding that the agency will be hiring 600 new officers to address the staff shortages at Rikers.

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