Citing gang violence raging at one jail on Rikers Island, the New York City correction commissioner wants to lock incarcerated people in their cells for nearly twice as long as currently allowed.

Commissioner Louis Molina sent a letter to the Board of Correction, which regulates and sets minimum standards for the city Department of Correction, asking to keep incarcerated people locked in their cells as long as 17 hours a day. The current limit for keeping people in their cells is 10 hours a day. The request, publicly released on Thursday, is specifically for the 800-person George R. Vierno Center jail, which “houses the individuals most prone to violence,” Molina wrote.

The board could vote on Molina’s proposal at its meeting on Tuesday.

Although the board typically grants requests for variances to its minimum standards, this proposal comes amid a rising chorus of politicians demanding that incarcerated people get as much time out of their cells as possible. A new state law, the HALT Act, limits the number of days someone can be held in segregated confinement. And a proposal currently before City Council would go even further, mandating 14 hours of out-of-cell time for those found guilty for committing a serious violent act.

The current Board of Correction rule mandates that incarcerated people cannot be required to stay in their cells for more than eight hours at night and two hours during the day. Molina said incarcerated people at GRVC are now permitted out of their cells and in communal areas for 14 hours a day; he wants that cut to seven hours.

In a statement, the Legal Aid Society, which represents detainees held at Rikers, said the variance "seeks to deflect attention away from the fact that [the correction department] cannot get staff to show up, stay on post, and perform basic tasks like locking doors competently, and chaos has been the predictable result." It added: "Locking people in concrete boxes 17 or more hours per day because they can't manage the jail properly is a cynical and dangerous move."

From last Friday through Wednesday, there were nine slashings or stabbings at GRVC, Molina wrote, which “resulted from a gang-related incident and the retaliation that followed it.”

“More than half of the individuals housed there have some known gang affiliation, and there are numerous rival gangs,” Molina said. “Among them are: the Crips, Bloods, Trinitarios, Latin Kings, and Folk Nation, many of which have numerous sets that are often in conflict.”

Since June, GRVC has seen nearly half of all slashings and stabbings of the several jails on Rikers. Such violence has increased exponentially throughout the city’s correction system over the last several years. A recent report from the mayor’s office said that despite the confiscation of 5,000 weapons in city jails in fiscal year 2022, the number of slashings and stabbings doubled from the prior year and increased fourfold compared to four years before that.

The violence appears to be at historically high levels through the city correction system. The annual rate for stabbing and slashing inmates is the highest in at least three decades, according to the policy journal Vital City.