News Release

Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar Again Calls on DOJ Leadership to Address Inhumane Conditions at Rikers Island

Washington, DC (March 18, 2022) – On Monday, March 14, NACDL and the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NYSACDL) delivered a request to the leadership of the Department of Justice regarding the violent, inhumane, and unconstitutional conditions persisting at the Rikers Island Correctional Facility. On Wednesday, the court-appointed Monitor for Rikers released a report which, according to the New York Times, "found that rates of violence remained high at Rikers, with January ranking as the second most violent month — measured by stabbings and slashings in the jails — since the monitor, Steve J. Martin, was appointed to oversee the complex." As highlighted in the joint NACDL/NYSACDL letter, members of both organizations have confirmed that Rikers remains a dangerous, filthy, and unhealthy facility despite the limited measures implemented thus far. NACDL renews the demand that DOJ act swiftly to ameliorate the unconstitutional and inhumane conditions at Rikers, including the appointment of a Receiver to address prolonged resistance by local or state government.

"Wednesday’s Report by the court-appointed Monitor confirms what our members see every day: the conditions at Rikers pose a threat to the physical and mental welfare of the human beings held there – many of whom are presumed innocent and held pre-trial simply because they cannot afford bail. State and Federal authorities cannot ignore a reality documented time and time again," said NACDL President Martín Sabelli. "Kalief Browder took his own life over six years ago due, in part, to the trauma he suffered at Rikers. To avoid another tragedy of this magnitude, as well as continued suffering by human beings held at Rikers, the Government must act swiftly and decisively. No person, innocent or guilty, should have to live in the conditions we are seeing firsthand out of Rikers."

See also: NACDL December 23, 2021 statement on the conditions at Rikers Island.


Kate Holden, NACDL Public Affairs and Communications Associate, (202) 465-7624 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.

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