Report: Highly Touted Rikers Project 'Rigged' From Start

ProPublica says NYC spent millions on program that didn't work
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2019 6:32 PM CST
NYC Spent Millions on Futile Projects to Save Rikers
In this file photo, a security fence surrounds inmate housing on the Rikers Island correctional facility in New York.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

New York City is shutting down the Rikers Island jail complex, long plagued with guard and inmate violence. Now, an investigative piece by the journalism organization ProPublica adds one more black eye to the mix. The story recounts how New York City, desperate to fend off bad publicity or federal intervention, paid the "white-shoe" consulting group McKinsey & Company $27.5 million between 2014 and 2017 to stem violence at Rikers. The upshot: Violence actually rose 50% since McKinsey's hiring, even as city officials and the consulting company were citing what ProPublica calls "bogus" data to push a program that didn't work as advertised and to justify ever-increasing consulting payments. A spokesperson for McKinsey denies all of that and says none of its consultants were involved in skewing data.

Much of the story revolves around McKinsey's initiative to create "Restart" housing units in the jail complex. On the surface, all seemed great. Very little violence was reported in those units, but ProPublica says it knows why: "Jail officials and McKinsey consultants had jointly rigged the Restart program in its earliest phase to all but guarantee there would be few violent episodes, according to documents and interviews." The key part of that: carefully selecting "docile" inmates to live in the units, ones who would be unlikely to get into fights with guards or other inmates. Another part of the problem, according to ProPublica, is that McKinsey had zero experience advising a jail system. The city spent millions on "advanced data analytics" tools, but ended up ditching most because they didn't work well or weren't effectively used. Read the full story. (More Rikers Island stories.)

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