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Inmates forced to run units at Rikers Island after guards failed to report to work

Inmates in two units performed officers’ duties for over 24 hours when no one showed up to work.

Rikers Island Getty Images

Inmates at Rikers Island were left to take on administrative tasks following staff shortages at the New York prison. According to the New York Daily News, corrections officers working at the 3 West and 3 North units in the Otis Bantum Correctional Center failed to show up on Tuesday (Aug. 31) through Wednesday afternoon (Sept. 1), forcing the 80 inmates to come together and help each other get access to video conferences and transportation to court appearances. The updates about the horrible conditions at Rikers came from “Milly Rock” rapper 2Milly, born Terrance Ferguson.

“We are really running the dorm by ourselves. I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said, adding that he’s taken on the role of “answering the phones.”

The Department of Corrections failed to comment on Rikers being unguarded, but a spokesperson acknowledged that the prison’s staff shortages — which are supposedly normal — stem from officers who are exempt from working with detainees and cops who have been calling in sick and failing to show up amid the pandemic.

Prior to the inmates’ takeover, the shortages resulted in extremely long shifts for the few corrections officers who did report to work. Per the Daily News, those employees worked in grueling heat and suffered just as much, if not more than, the detainees serving time.

The officers are losing their minds,” said Ferguson. “It’s the same guard for 24 hours. They’re sweating bullets, not getting meal breaks. I start feeling bad for them after a while.” In some instances, the Daily News reported, inmates offered some of their meals to the working cops.

Aside from the staff shortages, Ferguson — who is serving time related to a gun charge — complained about the time he was stuck in an overcrowded intake cell without beds. “There was more than 30 of us, no shower, barely ate,” he said. “We were subjected to Mace because of other people fighting. No water....We had to sleep on the floor. Some on the bench, some on the floor.” He’s since been transferred to quarantine where he’s witnessed threats over no ice and cold water and people suffering from “really serious medical or mental health problems” who are not getting treated.

“We agree with many of the issues raised here,” DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said in a statement. “We have been taking extensive measures to encourage staff to return to work, to relieve those who have been heroically working extra shifts to compensate, and to make this an environment where any parent would feel like their own son or daughter was safe working or living here.”

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