Louis Molina, Las Vegas Public Safety Chief, Expected to Lead N.Y.C. Jail System
Mr. Molina, a former N.Y.P.D. officer and Correction Department official, will be tasked with restoring order at the troubled Rikers Island jail complex.,
Mr. Molina, a former N.Y.P.D. officer and Correction Department official, will be tasked with restoring order at the troubled Rikers Island jail complex.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams is expected to name Louis A. Molina, a former New York City police officer who currently oversees a public safety department in Las Vegas, to be commissioner of the city’s embattled Correction Department, according to threepeople familiar with the plans.
The post is likely to be among the most challenging in Mr. Adams’s administration as the new mayor confronts a crisis of violence and disorder that has crippled Rikers Island, the city’s main jail complex. Mr. Molina would be the second person appointed to the role in just over six months.
Mr. Molina, who would become one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in city government, is expected to be tasked with immediately improving conditions inside the jail complex after months of chaos. He will also be faced with restoring relations with correction officers who have effectively revolted against the city’s current leadership during the pandemic.
At the same time, the next commissioner will inherit a plan started by Mayor Bill de Blasio to close Rikers by 2027 and replace it with smaller jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
It is a topic with which Mr. Molina is familiar. For 11 months from 2016 to 2017, he served as the department’s internal monitor focused on tracking the city’s attempt to comply with a settlement it agreed to in the face of a lawsuit and a federal civil rights investigation related to the use of force and other conditions on the island.
An announcement was planned for Thursday morning at Brooklyn Borough Hall, according to two of the people, who, like the others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private transition plans.
A spokesman for Mr. Adams, Evan Thies, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the Las Vegas city government.
Mr. Molina could not immediately be reached for comment.
NY1 first reported the selection on Thursday morning.
Mr. Adams, a former police officer who campaigned on restoring a sense of safety to the streets, is in the process of finalizing other senior public safety roles. He announced on Tuesday that he had selected Keechant Sewell, the Nassau County chief of detectives, to be the city’s first female police commissioner. And he is widely expected to appoint a deputy mayor for public safety, restoring the high-level position to oversee both Chief Sewell and Mr. Molina.
Mr. Adams’s transition team informed Vincent Schiraldi, the current correction commissioner, on Tuesday that his term would not be extended, the people said.
Mr. Schiraldi, a reform-minded researcher who spent much of his career leading nonprofit organizations, had just taken up the correction post in June, and had made no secret about his desire to stay on in the new administration. Outside advocacy groups had lobbied Mr. Adams in recent weeks to keep him amid signs that conditions on the island were improving from the low points of this summer and fall.
But Mr. Schiraldi had clashed with Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association in recent months, as basic operations in the Rikers complex have broken down and the city implemented a vaccine mandate for officers. The city pinned blame on the union after hundreds of officers had refused to show up for work this year, and the union in turn castigated city officials for implementing 12-hour shifts in response to staffing shortages after the mandate took effect.
The union celebrated reports of Mr. Schiraldi’s removal on Tuesday, blaming him and Mr. de Blasio for the “unprecedented humanitarian crisis in our jails.”
“Neither of them should be allowed to run a correction system ever again. Time’s Up Bill & Vinny!” the group posted on its Twitter account.
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Mr. Adams has signaled he intends to be friendlier with the union, and Mr. Molina would offer him a clean slate from which to approach solving problems in the complex.
Mr. Molina brings a varied r?sum? to the role, having done stints — some of them quite short — in many different cogs of the criminal justice system, according to his LinkedIn profile. After 13 years as a New York City police officer, Mr. Molina served as a private security adviser to New York University, an investigator for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, an adviser to the city’s homelessness services department, the corrections system’s internal Rikers monitor and a leader of the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s enforcement division.
In 2018, he became the No. 2 in the Westchester Department of Correction, where he helped the county satisfy the terms of its own agreement with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and end federal monitoring of its treatment of incarcerated people.
George Latimer, the Westchester County executive who hired him, called Mr. Molina “an extremely talented fellow” and predicted he “will do a terrific job.”
“He has a ringing endorsement from his three years in Westchester County,” said Mr. Latimer, a Democrat.
Mr. Molina moved in January to Las Vegas, where as chief of public safety he oversaw the city jail and a fleet of marshals that protected city parks and buildings. The Las Vegas system is considerably smaller than the one Mr. Molina would be taking on, with just 394 full-time employees and a jail capacity of 1,200 compared to around 10,000 employees and nearly 10,000 beds in New York City.
The incoming mayor has sketched out an ambitious brief for his commissioner. In addition to resetting relations with the system’s roughly 7,800correction officers, Mr. Adams wants to improve decrepit facilities on the island, where incarcerated people have been able to fashion pieces of the crumbling structures into weapons and escape their cells, and try to accelerate the processing time of cases. In many cases, they have lagged significantly during the pandemic, helping swell the city’s jail population — which had declined to its lowest point in decades — to more than 5,000 people a night on average.
Although Mr. de Blasio has tried to ban the use of solitary confinement, Mr. Adams has said he favors restoring some form of it as a measure to isolate violent incarcerated people and restore order on Rikers Island.
And he has said he supports the plan to close Rikers, which the City Council approved in 2019. But he is expected to put his own imprint on it that could alter the scope or timeline of the project and significantly shape Mr. Molina’s mandate as commissioner.
Dana Rubinstein and Jonah E. Bromwichcontributed reporting.