Unions bash plan to close Rikers Island jails

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Rikers Island (file photo)

Members of an independent commission created a report that recommends New York City close the jail complex on Rikers Island over the next 10 years. Mayor Bill de Blasio quickly voiced his support.

But three unions representing correction officers came together Tuesday in Lower Manhattan to fight back against the report, which they say ignores the real issues facing city jails.

"Our position is this report has only served as yet another convenient avenue for the mayor and the other politicians to kick the can down the road so no one in an election year has to confront what's really happening today. jail violence today," said Elias Husamudeen, President of Correction Officers' Benevolent Association. 

The independent panel was headed by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. One of the panel members, Jeremy Travis, said the report reflects that Rikers is an old, inefficient system that is too hard to access.

"The recommendation of the commission is that jails will be constructed downtown, not in neighborhoods near courts to make it efficient so inmates can go back-and-forth and on the footprint of existing facilities," Travis said.

The unions representing correction officers claim that slashings and stabbings in jails have spiked nearly 20 percent and that the city's focus should not be on shutting down prisons, but rather on increasing safety throughout all jails. 

The unions representing correction officers said they will soon be releasing their own set of proposals to improve the jail system.

In regards to safety, a spokesperson from the city's Department of Correction said recent reforms have driven down violence. He said assaults on staff, use of force, and serious injury to inmates were all down in 2016.