Chaos reigns at New York City's notorious Rikers Island jail, with inmates essentially running the crumbling facility, including one who recently hijacked an unattended bus filled with prisoners left with keys inside, and crashed it into a wall.
The sprawling jail complex, housing on average 4,800 inmates, has long been in the throes of what advocates have deemed a 'humanitarian crisis.' Rikers Island's current conditions have ignited protests and calls from lawmakers to shut it down permanently.
Since the beginning of the year, a dozen city inmates have died in custody, most of them at Rikers.
Chaos and violence reign at Rikers Island jail in New York City, prompting calls from lawmakers and advocates to shut it down
What has been happening inside the sprawling jail has been called a 'humanitarian crisis'
The facility is said to be severely run down and unsafe for inmates and staff
The city´s jail system, troubled by years of neglect, has spiraled into turmoil during the coronavirus pandemic with a spike in inmate deaths, violence, self-harm and staff absences.
In one instance, a corrections officer was accused of slipping a razor to an inmate, and in another, an inmate stabbed his neighbor after kicking in a grate in his cell.
An expose by the New York Times published Monday revealed that inmates have been allowed to roam the jail free, attack staff and each other, and break every conceivable rule, often under the indifferent gaze of officers.
In mid-September, inmate Abubakar Sanuwo, 20, was on a bus at the Anna M. Kross Center at Rikers Island along with five other men, when two officers allegedly left them without supervision to get paperwork.
Records indicate that inmates at the jail control large portions of the facility and roam free
Since the beginning of the year, a dozen inmates died in city jails, most of them at Rikers
Inmates have been stealing keys from jails to free other detainees, often leading to violent attacks
Sanuwo, who was handcuffed in the front, was able to get into the driver's seat, put the bus into drive and slam it into a wall.
Sanuwo, who was charged with burglary and robbery, reportedly was injured, along with the other inmates and two correction officers.
Last week, correction officer Travis Simms, 33, was charged with official misconduct and two counts of promoting prison contraband after he was allegedly spotted handing a razor blade to Rikers Island inmate Jonathan Sanchez, reported New York Post.
Department of Corrections Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi called the incident 'unconscionable, illegal and dangerous.'
Records and interviews conducted by the Times show that in some parts of the jail, inmates have seized near complete control and decide who gets to enter or leave.
Inmates have been known to enter restricted areas, answer phones instead of guards, steal keys to free other detainees, and smoke cigarettes and marijuana.
During one incident in August, an inmate stole keys from a jailer, freed another detainee and slashed the guard's neck with a knife, prompting him to seek refuge in his attacker's own jail cell.
Protesters gather in front of the Manhattan DA's office to call for the closing of Rikers Island
A couple of weeks later, another inmate stabbed his neighbor after climbing out of his cell through a metal grate in the wall.