De Blasio Announces Deal to Close Rikers Island

Mayor Bill de Blasio has struck a deal with the City Council to close Rikers Island.  It would be replaced with four smaller jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

“In partnership with the City Council, we can now move ahead with creating a borough-based jail system that’s smaller, safer and fairer,” Mayor de Blasio said.

The prisons replacing Rikers Island will be newly built, modified or renovated.  But before they open, the process will have to go through a public review that includes hearings and recommendations.

“We all know that closing jails on Rikers means opening more humane, community-based facilities elsewhere. I am proud to stand with my Council colleagues and thank them for their support on this crucial issue,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said.

De Blasio first announced plans to close Rikers Island in March of 2017.  It can’t be closed immediately though, because existing facilities are only capable of housing 2,300 people.  There are currently about 9,000 people at Rikers.

The mayor has also made driving the prison population down in New York City.  It’s already been reduced by 20 percent since he took office and the city has implemented a number of programs to continue that progress.  That includes a program to prevent recidivism, instead of short jail sentences for minor, low-level offenses.

"We must ensure our justice system reflects our commitment to safety, justice, and fairness for all - a standard we cannot in good conscious say we currently meet. We understand that the boroughs, including Brooklyn, will be an important part of the solution, and I look forward to engaging with the community on what form that may take," Council Member Stephen Levin said.

Photo Credit:  Getty Images

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