* Reposted from Gotham Gazette, Written by Ethan Geringer-Sameth *

The deaths this year of 14 people held on Rikers Island and recent reports of inhumane conditions have renewed attention on the dereliction of one of the country's largest municipal jail systems.

That includes from the lead sponsor of a bill in the state Legislature that would create an oversight board and statewide ombudsperson with jurisdiction over local jails and state prisons. The bill's author, Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell, says he is pushing for its passage in the next legislative session, which begins in January, arguing it would add needed transparency to a vast system with restricted public access.

"You have people both at Rikers and in prisons who are not getting the things that they need to be safe," said O'Donnell, a Manhattan Democrat, in an interview with Gotham Gazette. "If that's the case somebody needs to look at: is that an accident, is it intentional, is it a systematic problem -- and that's part of what the job of the ombudsman would be."

The legislation would establish a "correctional ombudsman" and a new Correctional Oversight Board separate from state and local correction departments with access to all prison and jail documents and the power to conduct investigations. While the new office would not be empowered to enforce its findings, it would be able to refer them to local prosecutors and the state Attorney General.

For the full article visit:…