Mayor-elect Eric Adams will appoint Louis Molina, a former NYPD detective and law enforcement veteran, to lead the city's embattled Department of Correction.
Molina, whose appointment was first reported by NY1, spent the last year as chief of the Department of Public Safety in Las Vegas. A former U.S. Marine, he’s also served as an assistant commissioner in both New York City and Westchester correction departments, an investigator at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, and a senior police advisor in the Department of State.
When he replaces the current commissioner, Vince Schiraldi, in January, Molina will inherit a jail system still reeling from multiple intersecting crises. As correction officers continue to call out sick or not show up for work, self-harm incidents, slashings, and use of force rates all remain higher than previous years.
Sixteen people have died in city jails so far this year, including two in the last week. Detainees have blamed rampant mismanagement and the lack of basic services for the spike in violence.
During a press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Thursday, Adams called Rikers Island a “stain on our city.”
He said the deteriorating conditions in the facility had affected both the inmates as well as the correction officers, who he has frequently made a point of noting are mostly women of color.
“We are not able to cover up this dysfunctional system,” he said. “And it's unacceptable.”
Molina will be tasked with not only improving conditions on Rikers, but assisting in its planned closure. Adams has said he supports the plan to shutter Rikers by 2027, but has not committed to a proposal to build four new borough based jails.
On his website, Molina, who has a master's degree in human rights from Columbia University, notes that he believes in the "strategic disruption" of the criminal justice system through "integral programs that aid and navigate vulnerable populations, thus breaking the cycle of poverty, crime, and abuse."
Molina will be the fourth Department of Correction commissioner in a little over four years. The appointment in May of Schiraldi, a well-known reformer with a criminal justice background, was widely praised by decarceration activists. But Schiraldi made enemies with the powerful correction officers union, and his efforts to reduce violence and disorder in the city's jail system faltered.
"The shortage of staff swallowed everything,” said one high-ranking correctional source, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the record. “It made it hard to really change things."
With Molina, Adams has now appointed three individuals of color to top leadership posts in the city. He emphasized the importance of selecting a Latino, given the minority makeup of both inmates and correction officers.
At the press conference, Molina credited his Bronx roots and two decades in law enforcement for preparing him for his new role, adding that he planned to “emphasize the need for holistic rehabilitation over the punitive policies in the past.”
This story will be updated throughout the day.