In a significant reshuffle within Mayor Eric Adams’ administration, on Tuesday, October 31st, it was announced that Department of Corrections Commissioner Louis Molina is set to leave his post overseeing Rikers Island and other city jails. Molina will transition to a new role as Assistant Deputy Mayor for Public Safety in City Hall, a move announced just days before a federal court considers appointing a third party to manage the beleaguered city jail system.
Molina’s departure, expected sometime in November, comes amid escalating tensions and challenges at Rikers Island. His tenure as commissioner has been marked by controversy and criticism, particularly from Steve Martin, the court-appointed federal monitor of the city jails system. Martin accused Molina of attempting to conceal serious violence within the jails and failing to enact substantial reforms.
Despite these challenges, Molina maintained a positive relationship with the three unions representing jail officers and supervisors. Patrick Ferraiuolo, President of the Correction Captains’ Association, praised Molina as “one of the best” commissioners he has worked under, acknowledging the difficulties faced due to staffing shortages.
Molina’s time as commissioner was not without its achievements. He relaxed a dress code rule banning correction officers from wearing cargo pants, a change welcomed by the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association. However, his efforts to reverse a spike in violence within the jails, including a Jails Action Plan launched in the summer of 2022, have been criticized as ineffective by the federal monitor.
The impending court hearing on November 17 will discuss the potential federal receivership of the Department of Correction, a move that could signify a dramatic shift in the management of the city’s jail system. This comes as the department faces scrutiny over increased incidents of violence and alleged underreporting of serious events.
Molina’s successor, yet to be named, will inherit a department described by former head of investigations Sarena Townsend as “in shambles and on the brink of receivership.” Townsend, who left the department under Molina’s tenure, highlighted the challenges ahead, noting the death of 28 incarcerated individuals during Molina’s time as commissioner.
As Molina prepares for his new role under Deputy Mayor Philip Banks, overseeing the NYPD and other uniformed law-enforcement agencies, the city awaits the outcome of the federal court’s decision and the future direction of its troubled jail system.