Closing Rikers, Remaking Jails
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during his first term that closing the jail complex on Rikers was official policy in New York City, with the aim of achieving this goal in 10 years. But this is a complex undertaking. Because existing borough-based facilities have the capacity to house only approximately 2,300 people, there is no immediate way to close Rikers Island safely and house the population off-Island. Expanding the capacity in the boroughs while simultaneously implementing a series of strategies to significantly reduce the jail population to a manageable level will take time. Existing jails on and off Rikers Island will need renovations and physical upgrades, as well as expanded programs and services to support the thousands of staff and incarcerated individuals in the jails every year. Closing Rikers Island requires a transparent partnership with New Yorkers across the city and with government, including the City Council and the State.
In June of 2017, Mayor de Blasio released the City’s “Roadmap to Closing Rikers Island” in 10 years. This plan focuses on three overarching initiatives:
- Smaller – Reducing the jail population;
- Safer – Restore and design new facilities to create a best in class, safe, borough-based jail system; and
- Fairer – Provide staff and incarcerated individuals with paths to success.
To ensure effective implementation of the Roadmap, the City launched a Justice Implementation Task Force chaired by Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office Criminal Justice, and Zachary Carter, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York. The Implementation Task Force coordinates the work of the many groups inside and outside of government, including government agencies, service providers, and community representatives, that are vital to achieving a smaller, safer and fairer jail system. Working groups will focus on safely reducing the jail population; improving culture for both staff and incarcerated individuals; and designing and siting safe, modern and humane jails.