Up close and personal: amNewYork sits down with Correction Commissioner Louis Molina about fate of Rikers Island

Correction Commissioner Louis Molina sat down with amNewYork Metro for the primary of a two-part interview the place he spoke candidly concerning his first yr as head of the Division of Correction and the state of Rikers Island as the ability edges nearer to closure.

Molina lately met with amNewYork Metro inside of his workplace at DOC headquarters in Queens and regarded again over his first full yr as commissioner. Sitting at a convention desk with his fingers interlocked, Molina thought again to January 2022 when he first took over the function; whereas he champions the adjustments he says he has made to Rikers Island, he additionally asserted that there’s nonetheless much more work to be carried out.

A Bronx native, Molina adopted in his fathers’ footsteps to change into a second-generation Marine, serving 4 years of lively obligation. Following his service, Molina used the GI invoice to attend college and change into a first-generation school graduate.

The commissioner credit a lot of the particular person he has change into to his time within the Marines and the NYPD, in addition to cultivating his function in management, finally main him to the best workplace in DOC.

“[The Marines] was a very positive experience. In hindsight, right, you don’t realize how undisciplined you are or immature you are until you go to the building blocks of something like military service. I’m not saying everybody needs that, but I think it was probably something in hindsight that I think was really beneficial to me,” Molina fondly recalled.

When Mayor Eric Adams tapped Molina to move the Correction Division, he inherited a Rikers Island that had already been dedicated to closure and had seen dire disinvestments that had bleak penalties on each these jailed and employees by seemingly leaving the ability to rot.

Molina admitted that the ability is “archaic,” and he started the arduous process of reestablishing the penal colony as an lively jail that aimed to each incarcerate and rehabilitate in spite of its 2027 projected closure date.

Nonetheless, this was not a simple mountain to scale and Molina himself acknowledges that there’s extra that must be modified. Molina states that one of his first priorities tackled reinstating non-profit and non secular visits each in particular person and by means of zoom to be able to assist inspire and take care of these behind bars.

The commissioner criticized the earlier administration for closing down what he feels are very important providers for inmates.

“You still have to invest because you still have the responsibility to all the people that are placed in our custodial care — they still need services. I get it, there were a lot of unknowns, people were scared; we didn’t know what was gonna happen,” Molina stated. “But the reality is this: Programming services should have never shut down for the wide scale that they did. And when you think about the people that are in our custody, I view them the same as I do patients in a hospital. So, if you have Bellevue, you’re not going to say the doctors come to work but the nurses stay home right, or the custodial staff stay home, the cafeteria staff — the ecosystem still needs to function.”

Whereas the return of providers got here on Jan. 24, 2022 because the pandemic, Molina additionally regarded to deal with the notorious staffing shortages as a result of accidents, in depth sick days, and triple hour shifts that DOC officers have been compelled to undertake beforehand.  

“When I started in January, we had over 2,600 individuals on any given day that were out sick. We have significantly reduced that number down by 69%. So, for example, yesterday, the number of individuals that were out sick was 653. So, we’ve been trending now hitting under the seven hundreds. That is huge,” Molina stated.

Molina costs that he additionally drastically decreased these numbers by each supporting employees but additionally holding them accountable.

Some of these numbers have been achieved by addressing disciplinary backlog circumstances. The commissioner asserts that in January of 2022 the DOC had some 4,000 circumstances courting again to 2017, and Molina addressed roughly 2,600 circumstances by means of which he reinstated some employees and let others go.

“That’s probably more disciplinary cases adjudicated by any commissioner in New York City history,” Molina stated. “So, we held staff accountable, but we also supported staff and I think that gave the staff the confidence to say, ‘let’s give this administration a try.’”

It has not been straightforward crusing. Subsequent to the staffing shortages, one of the largest public considerations resulted from the horrifying quantity of deaths in DOC custody throughout 2022 and missed medical appointments that reportedly contributed to a portion of these deaths.

Partially two of our interview, set for Monday, Commissioner Molina will reply robust questions on matters together with medical care, drug seizures, jail enhancements, and his imaginative and prescient for the longer term.

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