Mayor Bill de Blasio vows to close Rikers Island jail facility

Miranda GreerApr 02, 2017

Last year, de Blasio told reporters that the idea of closing the jail complex, with some 10,000 inmates who are mostly awaiting trial and therefore presumed innocent, was a "noble concept".

Rikers Island, which is home to ten jail facilities and some 10,000 inmates, has always been a point of contention for New York City, with activists having spent years working to shut down the notoriously violent penal complex.

De Blasio, Mark-Viverito and Lippman have all declined comment to both the Post and Politico.

"It's not a publishable plan", the mayor said. He said on the radio Friday that the city is looking into potentially amending the law to add more crimes, but that would have to go through the City Council.

Rikers Island, the largest jail in the country notorious for violence within its walls and described by some as "the worst place on Earth", will be closed, city leaders announced Friday.

"There was nothing rehabilitative about Rikers, nothing correctional", Glenn E. Martin, president of JustLeadershipUSA and who himself had been held at Rikers Island told the Village Voice a year ago.

De Blasio would not say where those new jail facilities might be located.

The mayor is also counting on improved mental health services, changes to the bail system, alternative-to-prison sentencing and more efficiency in the courts to act as further valves on the Rikers population-though the last will require assistance from the state. For example, de Blasio said the inmate population would have to decrease to about 5,000, halving its present number and also if the crime rate in NY remains low.

But he acknowledged that the city can not close Rikers without opening new, smaller prisons in NY neighborhoods.

"Are we going to give these people another chance or are we going to write them off?" she asked.

De Blasio's announcement was welcomed by Seymour James, chief attorney of the Legal Aid Society.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also backed the jail's closing.

"The commission believes that the use of Rikers Island must be phased out over the next 10 years and its facilities demolished" the recently published report concluded.

Rikers Island opened in 1932 and now houses 10,000 inmates with 80 percent awaiting trial.

"I feel like the work begins here", said Glenn Martin, who helped spearhead the movement to close Rikers as the founder of JustLeadershipUSA, a group advocating the reduction of the American prison population by half, by 2030. "I'm confident that we can turn our efforts toward the City Council and convince them too".

The report is expected to be released Sunday.

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