As Battle over Rikers Picks Up, 2nd Black Woman Appointee says she’s “committed to restoring safety.”
Lynelle Maginley-Liddie, an eight-year veteran of the Department of Corrections (DOC), was announced by Mayor Eric Adams as the New York City department’s 38th commissioner at a press conference last Friday (12/1). The announcement came as Adams contends with The Legal Aid Society, politicians and leaders calling for a possible Federal takeover of Rikers Island.
The new commissioner succeeds Louis Molina, who takes on the role of the City’s assistant deputy mayor for public safety. Molina, who will now report to Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks, will oversee the Department of Correction. In Maginley-Liddie’s former role, she served as first deputy commissioner of Corrections under Molina. Maginley-Liddie is tasked to make Rikers Island a safe environment for both the corrections officers and the incarcerated.
She enters her role in the midst of court arguments, begun last month, on the potential placement of NYC’s jails under Federal jurisdiction. The fight over Federal receivership stems from the “rising violence” on Rikers Island and, as PATCH reports, “lack of transparency from Molina and his team.” NYS Attorney General Letitia James, Public Advocate Jumanne Williams and Adams maintain the state of the city’s jails is improving.
At the press conference, Maginley-Liddie, an Antigua-born immigrant to the U.S. and daughter of a pastor, said she never “imagined standing here as commissioner of such a great institution. As we forge ahead, I’m confident that we can restore the department to the levels of greatness we have seen before. My focus will be restoration and investment in a safe, secure, humane and supportive environment for each person entrusted in our care.”
Maginley-Liddie joined the Department of Corrections in 2015 as an attorney. Three years later she became deputy general counsel, leading the DOC’s general litigation unit. She was named DOC’s first chief diversity officer and spearheaded policy development for the Department’s Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises programs. Prior to DOC, worked as an attorney at Leader Berkon Colao & Silverstein LLP. Maginley-Liddie received her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and her B.A. from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Of his appointment, the mayor said, “It was a tough decision, but (Lynelle Maginley-Liddie) brought the emotional intelligence that’s needed.”
It will be a tough road for Maginley-Liddie if she ever gets to her “restoration” goal. City & Politics reported on December 5 in a story by Sahalie Donaldson, “New York City jails have a long history of abuse and negligence. In 2022, at least 19 incarcerated people died in custody — the highest death rate since 2013 — and at least nine have died so far this year.” That year, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander was the first elected official to call for receivership.
Currently, City Council speaker Adrienne Adams is pushing for the mandated closing of Rikers Island and replacement by four borough-centered jails by an August 27 deadline. Joining Lander in the fight for the Federal takeover of Rikers, now, include the court-appointed Federal Monitor Steve Martin; The Legal Aid Society; New York State Attorney General Letitia James; Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District Damian Williams, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and others.
Adams says he wants to be on the frontlines of “repairing Rikers.” One of his moves is appointing Maginley-Liddie. Benny Boscio, president, Correction Officers Benevolent Association, also opposes the takeover. He has said, “Just because a receiver comes in, it’s not like he or she are going to wave a magic wand and all of our problems will go away.”