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Bronx DA-Elect Lays Out Plan for Reforming Rikers Island

By Eddie Small | November 17, 2015 5:24pm
 Bronx DA-elect Darcel Clark has come out with a list of proposed reforms for dealing with issues at Rikers Island.
Bronx DA-elect Darcel Clark has come out with a list of proposed reforms for dealing with issues at Rikers Island.
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Getty/Spencer Platt

THE BRONX — Bronx District Attorney-elect Darcel Clark's plan for dealing with several longstanding problems at Rikers Island includes installing a judge at the jail and setting up a task force devoted to Rikers within her office.

“There’s no sugarcoating it—we face a crisis at Rikers Island," Clark said, "and the next Bronx District Attorney must play a lead role in addressing the very real challenges there."

Clark was elected as the new Bronx District Attorney in a landslide on Nov. 3 following a controversial nomination process, and she will assume the office on Jan. 1, when she will officially take over for outgoing District Attorney Robert Johnson.

Her plans for reforming the city's troubled jail complex include setting up a Rikers Island Task Force within the Bronx District Attorney's Office where staffers will be trained to address issues specific to Rikers, such as sexual assaults, violence, mental health issues and narcotics trafficking.

Clark also plans to assign an Assistant Bronx District Attorney and other staff members to focus on eliminating delays caused by transferring inmates to courthouses for arraignments and have members of her office undergo joint investigative training with city agencies like the NYPD and the Department of Correction.

She has come out in support of bail reform for low level, non-violent offenders as well and pledged to reduce the case backlog at the DA's office to ensure that people do not stay at Rikers for longer than they need to.

Additionally, Clark hopes to get a judge placed on Rikers Island itself to help expedite arraignments and other court proceedings involving cases at the jail.

“The problems at Rikers cannot be allowed to continue," she said. "As the Bronx District Attorney, my focus will be on using this office to aggressively pursue all criminal activity in every corner of The Bronx, and that specifically includes Rikers Island."

Clark is a lifelong Bronx resident and will take over as District Attorney for the borough after spending roughly three years as a judge on the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court.