When jail reformer Vincent Schiraldi took over as commissioner of the much-maligned city Department of Correction eight months ago, he publicly lobbied to hold onto the job into a new mayor’s term next year.
Schiraldi and inmate advocates had contended it would take more time for positive changes to take hold in a department rife with corruption and a long history of brutality against detainees, so he would need to be given a place in the next administration.
That’s not going to happen.
Schiraldi has told associates that Mayor-elect Eric Adams has selected another, so far unnamed, person to run the department, according to a source who spoke to the commissioner.
Adams’ close ties to Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno LLC, a lobby firm that represents jail workers, has raised questions about the future of chaos-plagued Rikers Island, the beleaguered Correction Department — and Schiraldi’s future there.
The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association has vehemently opposed many of Schiraldi’s proposals, including a move to 12-hour shifts to deal with staff shortages with hundreds out because of the vaccine mandate.
“They hate his guts,” said one jail union insider, noting the Correction Captains’ Association also lobbied to have him replaced.
During his brief tenure, Schiraldi also made a strong push to force officers back to work as more than a thousand staffers were out sick or injured on any given day.
“Vinny really moved the ball,” said his former boss, Liz Glazer, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice from 2014 until 2020. “He had the energy and ideas to do it but it’s a place with a longstanding problem and it’s going to take more than one person and a couple of months.”
Schiraldi served as her senior advisor there from March 2014 to September 2015. He was also head of the city’s Probation Department from 2010 to 2014 during the Bloomberg administration.
New mayors typically only keep a few commissioners they inherit. Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg retained then Correction Commissioner William Fraser when he first took office in 2001. That was done largely at the behest of COBA — one of only two labor groups to endorse Bloomberg’s first run for mayor, according to reports.
Schiraldi and his supporters hoped that Adams would do the same for the prominent jail reformer.
“I’d be open to” staying on the job, Schiraldi told THE CITY shortly after his appointment in May. “I can go back to Columbia if the [new] mayor decides they don’t want me. I may hate the job.”
Schiraldi declined to comment on Tuesday.
Rikers Island has been plagued by what a federal monitor calls “disorder and chaos,” with inmate deaths and self-harm incidents up, rampant absenteeism and low vaccination rates among officers, and troubling conditions at intake centers.
The death at Rikers Island last week of 28-year-old Malcolm Boatwright, who became the 15th detainee, to die in a city jail this year, further upped concerns and scrutiny.
Adams’ Pick Has Tough Road Ahead
Evan Thies, Adams’ chief spokesperson, declined to comment.
The next Correction Commissioner could be announced as soon as Wednesday, according to a city government source.
Louis Molina, a former NYPD detective and current chief of the Las Vegas Department of Public Safety, is among those being seriously considered, according to multiple jail sources.
“His name keeps coming up,” said Joe Russo, president of the Assistant Deputy Wardens / Deputy Wardens Association.
Molina served as the chief internal monitor and acting assistant commissioner on the Nunez Compliance Unit for 11 months in 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile. The Nunez case is named for the lead plaintiff in the original class-action suit that spurred the appointment of a federal monitor.
Molina, or another candidate, will take over as the city slowly moves to a de Blasio administration plan close Rikers by 2027 and replace it with four, smaller, modern borough-based jails. The administration had also vowed to strictly limit the use of solitary confinement but pulled back that plan citing a lack of staff and pandemic concerns.
Meanwhile, the jail system “is rife with violence and disorder,” according to the latest report by a federal monitor overseeing the department.
“Data on uses of force, fights, stabbings, and slashings among people in custody and assaults on staff reveal that 2021 has been the most dangerous year” since the monitor began overseeing local lockups in 2015, the scathing 152-page report found.