Mayor, council reach deal to close Rikers Island jail complex

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Rikers Island (FOX 5 NY)

On the same day the New York State Department of Corrections released a report that found violent incidents at Rikers Island increased in the last year and warning it might close the jail before New York City does, the mayor held a news conference to announce the lowest inmate population at Rikers in five years, the lowest jail population the city's seen in 35 years, and the lowest incarceration rate of any major city in America.

Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a proclamation about a year ago the Rikers Island jail complex would close. Now he has announced a plan agreed upon by the City Council to open four new modern and more humane jail facilities in Downtown Brooklyn, Kew Gardens in Queens, Foley Square in Manhattan, and Mott Haven in the Bronx.

The four council members representing those communities gave their support, which, Speaker Corey Johnson said, is not popular but is the right thing to do.

The mayor said the city needs to keep driving down the jail population in order for the plan to work. On any given day, 9,000 people now sit in New York City jail cells. To close Rikers in the next decade, that number needs to drop by 4,000, de Blasio said.

That is where the state comes in. The mayor said the state needs to approve legislation for bail reform, speedier trials, and releasing inmates early for good behavior while also taking charge of state parolees in New York City jails.

But Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams stood beside Correction Officers Benevolent Association President Elias Husamudeen outside the Downtown Brooklyn jail on Wednesday and blamed the mayor's policies restricting of disciplinary tactics employed by correction officers for decades for an inmate attack on an officer over the weekend that left the victim with a fractured spine.

The mayor called the attack on that officer "heinous."

In a statement, Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David called Rikers Island an intolerable crisis and the city's 10-year timeline to close it too long.

"And with thousands of people impacted and many lives at risk, the City must go back to the drawing board and develop the political will to treat this as a priority," David said. "Building new jails is not that complicated if the City actually wanted to get it done."