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Commission Unveils Plan to Close Rikers Island

by WNYC | 3.27.18

Apr 2, 2017 · by Robert Lewis

A 27-member commission with public and private sector leaders from across the city unveiled an ambitious 10-year plan Sunday to cut the city’s jail population in half, build new detention centers near the courthouses in each borough and shutter Rikers Island — the notorious jail complex that’s become a symbol of mass incarceration and brutality.

Let Lawmakers Know Your Thoughts Closing the Infamous Island Jail

The city’s Mayor, City Council Speaker, Public Advocate, Comptroller and three District Attorneys are just some of the elected officials supporting the closure of Rikers Island. Still, a political battle likely looms.

Two of the city’s District Attorneys — Richard Brown of Queens and Michael McMahon of Staten Island — have yet to endorse the plan, which relies heavily on diversion programs and other alternatives to incarceration to reduce the inmate population. And building new jails in each borough is sure to encounter opposition, despite the commission’s plan to site three of the facilities on the footprint of existing detention centers in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo has already said he’ll fight a jail on Staten Island.

The commission’s plan calls for detention centers proportionate in size to the number of arrests in each borough, meaning a Staten Island facility would have about 200 beds. Combined, the five new jails would be able to hold 5,500 people.

Another likely sticking point is the plan’s call for a reduction in jail guards. The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association has been conspicuously silent but will address the plans at a press conference Tuesday.

The commission projects the plan will cost $11 billion but expects to offset that expense with $1.6 billion in annual savings.

The commission will spend the next year working on siting issues and building the political will to move forward with the plan.


Written by WNYC

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