New York City

Mayor Unveils $30-Million Plan to Close Rikers Island

What to Know

  • Key strategies include repairing existing facilities to make them more safe and modern
  • Upgrading technology with full-camera coverage in all jails
  • Reducing Rikers Island jail population and changing sentencing processing times

Mayor Bill de Blasio is investing $30 million toward closing Rikers Island and replacing it with smaller, more humane facilities throughout the boroughs.

A task force has been created to work on reducing the jail population by expanding the capacity in other jails, improving the culture for the well-being of staff and those incarcerated, and redesigning safe and modern jails.

“New York City is at the forefront both of ending mass incarceration and reducing crime – we have the smallest rate of incarceration of any big city in the country and crime continues to drop,” said de Blasio.

“Closing Rikers Island is a continuation of this important work. We are building a correctional system that is smaller, safer and fairer – one in which jails are safe and humane,” he added.

De Blasio announced that he wanted to close the jail in March, following a series of brutality cases.

Reforms will include providing alternatives to jail sentences, especially for lower-risk people, speeding up court case processes and enhancing safety with more officer training.

Some shorter-term goals include improving transparency by providing full-camera coverage in all facilities by the end of 2017, as well as reducing the daily jail population by 25 percent, to 7,000, over the next five years.

Many applaud de Blasio's road map for a renovated correctional system.

“Rikers Island is an 18th-century solution to a 21st-century problem, complicating prisoners’ rights to a speedy trial, limiting families’ ability to visit incarcerated loved ones, and saddling the City with an exorbitant financial burden in order to continue its operation,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat. 

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