Hundreds of inmates serving time on Rikers Island are set to be sprung prematurely as part of a desperate bid by Mayor Bill de Blasio to deal with the shortage of correction officers willing to work there, The Post has learned.
The horde of ex-cons — who could be freed starting Tuesday — would comprise the second wave of convicted criminals granted early release since last year, when officials used the COVID-19 pandemic to justify putting around 300 jailbirds back on the streets.
Those inmates were among more than 1,500 who were freed last year due to the coronavirus crisis, reducing the city’s jail population to 4,363 — a level not seen since in more than 70 years.
The latest plan comes amid a surge in shootings and serious assaults that helped push the average daily jail population to 5,730 in July, its highest in more than a year, according to the most recent statistics compiled by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services.
The newest batch of early releases were set to start last Thursday but were delayed when the remnants of Hurricane Ida struck the Big Apple and killed 13 people, law enforcement sources said.
“The mayor wants to close Rikers and he will use any opportunity to release the prisoners,” one source said.
“He is leaving in three-plus months and he wants to release as many prisoners as he can.”
The inmates under consideration include Allen Nimmons, 56, a career burglar who’s served seven prison sentences and is locked up for violating parole, sources said.
Another is Rashawn Powell, 30, who’s serving a sentence for three counts of dealing drugs on school grounds, in addition to bail jumping, sources said.
But officials are keeping the names of those set for early release closely guarded because de Blasio “doesn’t want the pushback that he got last time when he released dangerous felons,” a source said.
“There are only the worst kind criminals left in jail — people with gun arrests, shootings, sex crimes, etc. No one is in for shoplifting,” the source added.